SEATTLE'S MORNING NEWS

Colleen O’Brien: Mount McKinley became Denali; will Mount Rainier’s name also change?

May 10, 2024, 5:02 PM | Updated: 5:10 pm

Photo: A view of Mount Rainier is photographed from an Alaska Airlines flight flying at 25,000 feet...

A view of Mount Rainier is photographed from an Alaska Airlines flight flying at 25,000 feet on September 21, 2021 makes us think about how climate change could affect us and our planet. (Photo: George Rose, Getty Images)

(Photo: George Rose, Getty Images)

For years, local tribes have been working to rename Mount Rainier to its original name and KIRO Newsradio historian Feliks Banel thinks it’s going to happen “in our lifetime.”

“I think Mount Rainier, the name will change. I think they’ll change it to ‘Taquoma,’ eventually, probably in our lifetimes. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing,” Banel said on “Seattle’s Morning News” Wednesday.

The exact pronunciation of “Taquoma” is also up for debate. While Banel will give it a softer ‘h’ like ‘Tahoma’ some tribes pronounce the name with a sound emanating from the back of the throat and truer to the ‘qu’ in the name. How to pronounce it will be up to the tribes at the center of the push to rename Mount Rainier.

“With the English language, there’s certain poetry to names like ‘Rainier’ and ‘Baker’. It’s sort of so familiar, but ya know, it’s a terrific debate to keep having continually,” Banel said.

The U.S. Board of Geographic Names would ultimately have to approve of the name change and they are well aware of the Puyallup Tribe’s efforts.

“(They’ve been) engaged in a years long process to create consensus around the indigenous community about what they would like it renamed. So, I do think in our lifetimes, we’ll see a change like that and it’ll be like Denali up in Alaska, but a bigger deal,” Banel said.

More on the history of Denali

I turned to various online sources to understand the history of Denali, and how it might inform the potential fight ahead of local tribes to rename Mount Rainier. The name for Denali was ensnared in a years-long battle between the federal government and Alaska.

In 1975, it was the Alaska legislature who lobbied the federal government to change the name from “Mount McKinley” (after a gold prospector and also President William McKinley) to “Denali,” which would pay homage to the Indigenous tribe that first named the mountain ‘Deenaalee’ meaning ‘the high one.’

It wasn’t until President Barack Obama’s administration that the name change was granted. (Readers can view of a PDF of the Department of Interior’s order to change the name as a PDF here).

Interestingly, according to CNN, when then-President Donald Trump was in office, he met with senators from Alaska to ask about reversing it. But his efforts, apparently, ended there.

Feliks Banel joins “Seattle’s Morning News” every Wednesday and Friday for his features on local history. You can click on the player above or head here to hear the full conversation about Mount Rainier, which began with a brief history of Northwest explorer Captain George Vancouver‘s adventures and the fact that he is still honored to this day at a tiny cemetery in England.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5-9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Colleen O’Brien: Mount McKinley became Denali; will Mount Rainier’s name also change?