On Sunday, the Obama administration ended a 119-year-long debate when it announced that it was dropping the name of America’s highest mountain for a name used by countless generations of Alaska Natives.
Goodbye “Mount McKinley,” honoring the 25th president, hello “Denali.”
“In changing the name from Mount McKinley to Denali, we intend no disrespect to the legacy of President McKinley,” Interior Department officials said in prepared documents. “We are simply reflecting the desire of most Alaskans to have an authentically Alaskan name for this iconic Alaskan feature.”
The White House took an important step toward improving relations with Native Americans, who are used to having their mountains and lakes renamed. Here are five more well-known American landmarks that theoretically could be rechristened.
The rocky outcrop in Black Hills, S.D., that one day became known as Mount Rushmore, was once named for the earth, the sky and the four directions by the Lakota people and called “The Six Grandfathers,” according the Ken Burns series “The National Parks.”
According to the Associated Press, the Black Hills is sacred land to Sioux tribes that was set aside for the Sioux as part of a 1868 treaty but a 1877 law passed by Congress took the land back for the federal government. According U.S. Board on Geographic Names, the name Mount Rushmore was approved in 1930 and was named for Charles E. Rushmore, a New York attorney who came to South Dakota in 1894.
“Here in the heart of the continent, on the side of a mountain which probably no white man had ever beheld in the days of Washington,” President Coolidge said in 1927 at the Mount Rushmore dedication ceremony, “territory which was acquired by the action of Jefferson, which remained an unbroken wilderness beyond the days of Lincoln, which was especially beloved by Roosevelt, the people of the future will see history and art combined to portray the spirit of patriotism. “
A few miles down the road from the four presidents sits an unfinished granite portrait of the Sioux leader Crazy Horse. Started in 1947 after tribal leaders had recruited sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski, who dedicated his life to the sculpture until his death in 1982, the sculpture intended to portray the Sioux leader on horseback remains unfinished but not forgotten.
A lawyer named Rushmore. Have you heard of him?
For thousands of years, Native Americans called this pear-shaped island in southern Rhode Island “Manisses” (“Island of the Little God, “) until it was visited in 1614 by Dutch explorer Adriaen Block, who renamed it after himself. Block? Have you ever heard of him?
Mount St. Helens
According to the United States Geological Survey, Mount St. Helens in the Pacific Northwest was called “Louwala-Clough,” or “smoking mountain” by some Native Americans. But 1792 Capt. George Vancouver of the British Royal Navy named it after the British Ambassador to Spain, Alleyne Fitzherbert, who’s title was Baron St. Helens. Ever heard of the Baron?
The highest elevation in the State of Washington and in the Cascade Range, Mount Rainier was also named by Capt. George Vancouver for a member of the British Royal Navy. Ever heard of him?
“When they showed up here it got changed. They changed it. That’s part of the process I think when you conquer,” Robert Satiacum, a Puyallup tribal member who wants to have the name restored, told KPLU.
Some may know Lake Superior’s name from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1855 poem “Hiawatha,” or from the opening to Gordon Lightfoot’s 1976 song “God The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald.” “The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down, Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee,” Lightfoot sang. Lake Superior has always been named for its size, Native Americans called it Gitche Gumee which loosely translates to “Big Sea” or “Huge Water, ” and now it’s called “Superior” because it’s, well, superior. But Gitche Gumee is kind of catchy.
Correction: A previous version of this story included a caption from Agence France-Presse that identified Mount Rainer in the background of the image of Mount St. Helens. The agency has since issued a correction identifying the mountain as Mount Hood not Mount Rainer.