It turns out that McKinley had nothing to do with Denali at all:
The mountain was named for McKinley before he became president, by gold prospector William A. Dickey, who had just received word of McKinley’s nomination as a candidate in 1896. McKinley died without ever setting foot in Alaska, assassinated at the start of his second term in office.
Can’t we all agree that the preservation of the National Park should have been indicative that Alaska was in favor of the mountain’s original name?
The tallest mountain in North America has long been known to Alaskans as Denali, its Koyukon Athabascan name, but its official name was not changed with the creation of Denali National Park and Preserve in 1980, 6 million acres carved out for federal protection under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. The state changed the name of the park’s tallest mountain to Denali at that time, but the federal government did not.
Speaker of the House John Boehner R-Ohio said he is “deeply disappointed in this decision” to remove Ohio-native McKinley’s name from the mountain.
According to this Huffington Post article, this battle has been going on for some time:
Alaskans had been blocked in Congress by Ohio politicians, who wanted to stick with McKinley as a lasting tribute to the 25th U.S. president, who served from 1897 until his assassination in 1901.
Great move, Obama!