U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan (both Republicans from Alaska) introduced a bill Wednesday to change the name of North America’s highest peak from Mount McKinley to Denali, its Alaska Native name.
Lawmakers have unsuccessfully attempted to rename the mountain in the past, but new efforts might have a better chance under a Republican Congress, Matthew Felling, spokesperson for Senator Murkowski, told the AP.
“I believe that there is an understanding that Alaska should have more of a say on what happens in and to Alaska,” Felling said. “In a Republican Congress, there will be more sympathy.”
For years, lawmakers have fought over renaming the mountain from that of 25th U.S. president William McKinley, assassinated in 1901, to the historical Athabascan name, which means “the Great One.” Murkowski and Sullivan, who is married to an Alaska Native woman, argued that the mountain has a longer history as Denali.
“Alaskans take great pride in this gorgeous natural monument, so it is important that we grant it its ancestral name to honor and respect our heritage as well as the lands through a name that goes back centuries,” Murkowski said in a statement. “This is our Alaska, and this should be our decision.”
Murkowski has recently called for several changes to how Alaska’s public lands are handled. She recently voiced opposition to President Obama’s proposal to increase protection of a national wildlife refuge in Alaska, and she has been an outspoken supporter of Senator Don Young’s proposal to strip the president of power to declare national monuments.