You’re in Denali


Andrew Podo

You’re in Denali.

President Obama announced that the White House would be formally changing the name of Alaska’s highest peak, Mt. McKinley, to the traditional, native Athabascan name Denali.

Republicans from President McKinley’s home state of Ohio reacted as expected: angrily.
They ranted and fumed about Obama going over the head of Congress, calling the decision to change the mountain’s namesake from that of the 25th president a “political stunt,” “congressional overreach,” and just downright disrespectful.

They pitched a hissy fit because Obama did something that they couldn’t stop. They threw a temper tantrum under the pretense of partisan gripes. They were furious because they are a bunch of old men who do not want to face the history of a prolonged, systematic genocide against Native Americans.

Sure, Obama’s decision got him in a few headlines and will definitely garner him some nice publicity with Alaskans, but it’s not just some desperate grab for attention. Native Alaskans have been begging the government to change the name for years.

It’s understandable that a people we’ve ruthlessly repressed and virtually driven to extinction were more than a little bothered by one of our national heroes being the namesake of one of the greatest natural wonders in the country.

So Ohioans, Republicans and everybody else who wants to kick and scream about Obama paying homage to Native American culture should reconsider their argument. It’s uncomfortable to confront the truth that we built our country on the blood, sweat and tears of other people, but it’s necessary.
We don’t gain anything from sweeping the ugly truths of American history under the rug. We just set ourselves back by wallowing in our own ignorance and nationalism.

So let’s stop making excuses and be happy that we’re at least doing something to respect Native American culture in this country.

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