President Donald Trump decided not to rename the U.S.’s tallest mountain after having a conversation with Alaska’s two Republican senators.
On the campaign trail, Trump promised to change the name of Alaska’s Denali back to Mount McKinley. It was part of Trump’s broader pledge to reverse many of President Obama’s executive orders. Trump has apparently changed his mind.
“He looked at me and said, ‘I heard that the big mountain in Alaska — its name was also changed by an executive action. Do you want to reverse that?'” Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan told E&E News on Monday.
“Sen. Murkowski and I jumped over the desk and said, ‘No! No! We don’t want to reverse that,” Sullivan said, recalling a meeting he and Alaska Sen. Murkowski had with Trump at the Alaska Federation of Natives conference in March.
“He looked at me and said, ‘Well why?'” Sullivan said. “And I said, ‘Mr. President, the Alaska Native people named that mountain 10,000 years ago. Denali. That was the name that was given to that mountain. Not McKinley.'”
“And by the way that was the Athabascan people,” Sullivan told Trump of where Denali’s name came from.
Obama changed Mount McKinley’s name to Denali during a visit in 2015. Denali is the tallest peak in the U.S., standing 20,310 feet above sea level.
Obama’s decision was popular among native tribes and Alaska state lawmakers. Alaska officially started calling the mountain Denali since the 1970, but Ohio lawmakers have blocked the change at the federal level for decades.
Former President William McKinley was from Ohio. McKinley was assassinated a few months into his second term in office in 1901.
Former House Speaker John Boehner criticized Obama’s decision to rename Mount McKinley.
“There is a reason President McKinley’s name has served atop the highest peak in North America for more than 100 years, and that is because it is a testament to his great legacy,” Boehner said in 2015.
Sullivan told Trump he had a personal connection to McKinley’s renaming.
“My wife is Athabascan,” Sullivan said. “And if you change that name back now she’s going to be really, really mad.”
“All right, we won’t do that,” Trump replied, according to Sullivan.
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