President Barack Obama on Monday will rename Mount McKinley to "Denali" during his three-day presidential trip to Alaska.

The mountain was named Mount McKinley in 1896 when a gold prospector named it after Ohioan William McKinley as support for the Republican's presidential bid. The name has since stuck with the federal government recognizing the name Mount McKinley in 1917.

Alaskan Natives, however, have long called the mountain Denali, an Athabascan word that means "the High One."

 In 1975, Alaska officially designated the peak as Denali and has since been urging the federal government to do the same albeit this was blocked in Congress by lawmakers from Ohio who wanted to stick with McKinley as tribute to the 25th president of the United States who held office from 1896 until he was assassinated in 1901.

In a statement released on Sunday, the White House said that the President is changing the name of the mountain to Denali to recognize its sacred status to generations of Alaska Natives.

Changing the name of the mountain is just one of the several initiatives that Obama will unveil during his historic trip to Alaska to strengthen cooperation between Alaska Native tribes and the federal government.

"Generally believed to be central to the Athabascan creation story, Denali is a site of significant cultural importance to many Alaska Natives," the White House said on Sunday, Aug.29. "The name 'Denali' has been used for many years and is widely used across the state today."

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, who is also responsible for the Board on Geographic Names, which is in charge of place names, said that the change of the mountain's name to Denali recognizes what many Alaskans considered as sacred.

"The name Denali has been official for use by the State of Alaska since 1975, but even more importantly, the mountain has been known as Denali for generations," Jewell said.

Alaska Federation of Natives president Julie Kitka said that the announcement would have concrete and psychological effects on Alaska Natives.

"It's symbolic but the practical thing is now on all the maps and all the descriptions it will have the traditional name," Kitka said.

The Koyukon Athabaskan people who live in the area around the mountain called the peak as Denali. The mountain was also called Bolshaya Gora, the Russian equivalent for Denali, during the Russian ownership of Alaska.

The peak was also briefly called Densmore's Mountain after Frank Densmore, the first European who made it to the base of the mountain.

Photo: Nic McPhee | Flickr 

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