Thursday, September 3, 2015

This time you gave me a mountain

That's quite a trip
Alaska, the state from which you can see Russia from your kitchen, is also the home of North America's tallest mountain peak, which has always been known to native Alaskans as Denali ("the high one," in the Athabascan language.) The mountain is in Alaska, so you wouldn't think that the people of Ohio would have a nickel in the argument about what the official name of the mountain would be. In fact, I looked it up, and it's a journey of 3,133 miles from the mountain to the lovely town of Cincinnati, home of both Jerry Springer and putting chili on top of spaghetti. The city was originally named Losantiville after the Licking River, which is a tributary of the mighty Ohio River. The name Losantiville means “opposite of the mouth of the river.”

So the only reason that people in Ohio have anything to say about the mountain which was known as Mt McKinley since 1896 is this: It was named Mt McKinley by a gold prospector who supported the presidential campaign of Ohioan William McKinley, who won the election that fall but was assassinated in 1901. Mt McKinley became the official name in 1917, but this, as with so many things in our history, completely ignored the feelings, history and culture of the native people who lived around the mountain. To remedy this, the Alaska Board of Geographic Names changed the mountain's name to Denali, to reflect what local residents called it anyway.  But in 1975, when the Alaska state legislature asked the United States Board on Geographic Names to make the change official, the request was blocked by Ohio congressman Ralph Regula.  Coincidentally or not, "Ralph Regula" was the name on the first fake ID I ever owned.

President Obama and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, two people who realize that the people of Alaska ought to have the final say in what their mountains are called, have officially changed the name of the 20,237-foot peak to Mt. Denali.

Meanwhile, people back in Ohio, who were so thrilled when Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson changed his name legally to Chad Ochocinco to (improperly*) reflect his uniform number, should just busy themselves naming their own mountains, if they have any.

The 2017 McKinley 4x4
And if they do, to even things up, General Motors might rename their Denali truck line the "McKinley."

 *  Johnson's number was 85.  Ochocinco means 8-5. "85" in Spanish is ochenta y cinco.

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