McKinley To Denali Name Change Legislation Passes Out Of Senate Committee

The long time tug of war over the name of North America’s highest peak was back in front of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday.

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Ranking committee member Lisa Murkowski recorded a win after Senate Bill 155, a one page piece of legislation, passed out of committee in favor of changing the name to Denali. Senator Murkowski says she’s defending the true Alaskan name for the majestic peak.

“It deserves to be called the name that the Athabascans from the Interior have called it for decades and decades and decades. I think it’s important that we honor and tribute Alaska’s First peoples by officially recognizing ‘The Big One’ as Denali,” Murkowski said.

True to the script of this long running saga, Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman voted against the change, saying he is defending Ohio where President William McKinley was born and served as a Governor in the 1800s. Portman also says, the name of the National Park has already been changed to Denali.

“I know Athabascan’s do call it Denali, there are a couple other Native peoples who call it other things, there are two other names at least the Aleuts use and another Native group, but the point is, we’d like to keep our Mount McKinley within the Denali National Park,” Portman said.

The committee approved the bill by a voice vote. That clears it for consideration by the full Senate although it’s not certain that it will make it to the floor.

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Lori Townsend is the News Director for the Alaska Public Radio Network. She got her start in broadcasting at the age of 11 as the park announcer of the fast pitch baseball games in Deer Park, Wisconsin. She has worked in print and broadcast journalism for more than 18 years. She was the co-founder and former Editor of Northern Aspects, a magazine featuring northern Wisconsin writers and artists. She worked for 7 years at tribal station WOJB on the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibway Reservation in Wisconsin, first as an on-air programmer and special projects producer and eventually News Director. In 1997 she co-hosted a continuing Saturday afternoon public affairs talk program on station KSTP in St. Paul, Minnesota. Radio brought her to Alaska where she worked as a broadcast trainer for Native fellowship students at Koahnic Broadcasting. Following her work there, she helped co-found the non-profit broadcast company Native Voice Communications with veteran Alaskan broadcasters Nellie Moore, D’Anne Hamilton, Len Anderson, Sharon McConnell and Veronica Iya. NVC created the award-winning Independent Native News as well as producing many other documentaries and productions. Townsend was NVC’s technical trainer and assistant producer of INN. Through her freelance work, she has produced news and feature stories nationally and internationally for Independent Native News, National Native News, NPR , Pacifica, Monitor Radio, Radio Netherlands and AIROS. Her print work and interviews have been published in News from Indian Country, Yakama Nation Review and other publications. Ms. Townsend has also worked as a broadcast trainer for the Native American Journalist’s Association and with NPR’s Doug Mitchell and as a freelance editor. Townsend is the recipient of numerous awards for her work from the Alaska Press Club, the Native American Journalists Association and a gold and a silver reel award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. Townsend was the recipient of a Fellowship at the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting in Rhode Island as well as a fellowship at the Knight Digital Media Center in Berkeley. She is an avid reader, a rabid gardener and counts water skiing, training horses, diving and a welding certification among her past and current interests. ltownsend (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8452 | About Lori