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The Great Alaska Booby Prize: Obama Changes Mountain’s Name (But Approves Deep Sea Drilling and Stealing Of Native Sacred Site)
Two weeks after the Obama administration granted Royal Dutch Shell permission to resume drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic Ocean for the first time since 2012; President Obama threw a bit of a bone to Native people and changed the name of “Mount McKinley” back to the Athabascan name “Denali.”
Really, the name change wasn’t a big deal. In all honesty, it was merely a “correction.” To me, this was just one of the tiniest of micro-corrections that Alaskans of all colors wanted—and as far as I am concerned, this was NOT a “Native issue” at all.
Granted, these tiny symbolic corrections do have some limited value and are sometimes a necessary part of healing. Yet, unless they are accompanied by substantive commitments to make things better, they’re pretty much a hollow sentiment.
Ok, about the name-change: The former “Mount McKinley,” the tallest mountain on Turtle Island, will finally and officially be called by its rightful name. Denali, which means “The Great One.” That is what the mountain has been known as since time immemorial.
This is the name that was given by the Koyukon Athabascan, the Native community that has lived beside the great Denali for more than twenty thousand years. Presumably living beside something for such a long period of time gives familiarity to know what something should be called.
William McKinley, whom the mountain was inexplicably named after for a short period of time, never even visited the glorious mountain, never stepped foot into the beautiful state of Alaska, and didn’t even live long enough to know that the mountain was named after him.
William McKinley had no connection to this mountain; he did nothing to deserve it.
Moreover, the fact that the mountain bore his name for any period of time, to me is a testament to extreme privilege: a few privileged folks with the power to arbitrarily change a mountain’s name devalued not only Alaska Natives who knew this mountain since before here was here, but also Alaskans of ALL colors who know that this is the proper name. Cool.
But the substantive effect is that this matter of a name change was a trade-off. The Obama Administration, as decent as it has been in many regards with Tribes, has been mediocre on environmental and sacred site issues. To wit recently, the President signed the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, which exchanged the Oak Flat part of Tonto National Forest, a site of spiritual significance, to Resolution Copper Mining in a slimy 11th hour deal.
Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.c … illing-and