Monday, September 07, 2015

Denali: a quick review

The "big scandal" last week was the renaming of an Alaskan mountain to its original name, which, the Right claimed, was an obvious overreach of presidential power and a blatant example of the tyrannical Obama administration desecrating American history!

The rest of the country yawned. Except in Alaska, where they poured another drink and said "About damned time."

The outrage pretty much played itself out almost as quickly as it began, but let's take a quick run-through of the actual facts of the situation.

On Friday, August 28, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell issued the order changing the name to Denali.

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) expressed his deep disappointment on Sunday night about the decision. Of course, since he spends every day looking for new things to complain about regarding Obama, nobody really cared.

Another Ohio congresscritter, Rob Portman, whined on Facebook that "This decision by the Administration is yet another example of the President going around Congress." Which is technically correct - it's a job that Congress didn't need to be involved in. The Secretary of the Interior was just making an administrative correction to the record, changing the mountain to the name preferred by the people of that state.

But perhaps you should hear the whole story.

See, the Athabaskan natives who inhabited the area called it Denali, which, loosely translated, meant "that big fucking hill over there." (OK, admittedly a very loose translation.) The Russians, when they owned the area from around the mid 1700s until 1867, called it Большая Гора (Bolshaya Gora) or "Big Mountain" basically the Russian translation of Denali. The Russians left, and it was Denali again (with a brief period as Densmore's Mountain in the late 1880s and early 1890s, after the first English-speaking white man to reach the base of the mountain).

In 1896, a gold prospector named named William Dickey wrote an account in the New York Sun about his travels through Alaska, and took it upon himself to name it "after William McKinley of Ohio, who had been nominated for the presidency, and that fact was the first news we received on our way out of the wonderful wilderness."

(Side note: McKinley was a strong proponent of the gold standard, so it follows that a gold miner would be a big fan.)

William McKinley was elected president the following year. The United States formally recognized the name Mount McKinley after President Wilson signed the Mount McKinley National Park Act of February 26, 1917. Which confused the Alaskans, most of whom had been calling it "Denali" all this time.

In his entire life, McKinley never visited Alaska, and in fact, he'd been dead for almost 60 years before it became a state.
In 1975, the Alaskan legislature backed a proposal to switch the name back to Denali. But when the Board on Geographic Names requested public comment on the matter, Ohio Rep. Ralph Regula, who represents the district where McKinley grew up, swiftly came to Mount McKinley’s defense. He convinced the entire Ohio congressional delegation to oppose the recommendation, and the names committee put off the matter. He also added an amendment to the 1980 legislation expanding the national park around the mountain that would rename the park “Denali,” but keep "McKinley" for the peak, in hopes that a compromise would settle the debate.
So basically, it's just Republicans and people from Ohio whining about it. Because apparently, "state's rights" doesn't mean as much in the GOP as it once did.

Bristol Palin, taking a break while waiting to whelp yet another out-of-wedlock child, weighed in to complain "By the way, no one is buying the 'Denali is what the Alaskans have called it for years' line. I’ve never called the mountain Denali... and neither does anyone I know..."

Bristol, permit me to introduce you to someone you might be interested in. Her name is Sarah.

Right about a minute and a half in, Sarah says "Denali, The Great One, soaring under the midnight sun." It's subtle. You might have missed it, particularly if you nodded off like most of us do when your mom starts talking.

Rob Portman (R-OH) took to Facebook to whine "I now urge the Administration to work with me to find alternative ways to preserve McKinley's legacy somewhere else in the national park that once bore his name."

Well, I'm sure there's an outhouse up there somewhere that could use a name plaque. Because seriously, what the hell business is it of the people of Ohio to try and interfere with a matter internal to Alaska? Send them a statue - I'm sure they'll be happy to mount it in front of the Visitor's Center. Or name something in your own godforsaken state after him.

Once again, our friends in the GOP just started whining as soon as they saw Obama's name. This one fell apart on them pretty quickly, but I'm sure they'll be on to something new soon enough.

Maybe they can complain about the color of Obama's suit again. That one was pretty funny.

No comments: