Dear Gov. Kasich,

Re: Denali – formerly known as Mt. McKinley

Now, I know you are aware that in 1896, gold prospector William A. Dickey named the mountain for William McKinley of Ohio, who had been nominated for the President, but had not yet been elected. McKinley, actually entered the White House the following year (1897), never visited Alaska, and was assassinated at the start of his second term in office. When asked why he chose to name the mountain after then-presidential nominee McKinley, Dickey reportedly cited McKinley’s support of the gold standard.

Your state takes its name from the Ohio River. The name originated from the Iroquois word ohi-yo’, meaning “great river” or “large creek”. Your state, was originally partitioned from the Northwest Territory and admitted to the Union as the 17th state (and the first under the Northwest Ordinance) on March 1, 1803.

You may recall the Northwest Ordinance from your high school American history studies. It is the “ordinance” by which ALL Native North
American Indian land titles were extinguished, and turned into counties and townships. Kind of ironical isn’t that your state (like mine) has a name derived from a Native language.

Finally Governor, I believe you’ve said that Dickey and/or other American explorers were the first persons to see the mountain which of course seems to ignore the fact that Native Alaskans most likely were pretty much aware of the mountain’s existence hundreds if not thousands of years before 1896. I mean, after all, its peak is some 20,000 feet high so it would be pretty hard to miss. Turns out in fact that Denali means “Great One” in Abathascan the Native language of the area.

Yours truly,

Jeff Salisbury, Michigan State University 1980
Go Spartans on November 21st!