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In the news: between August 31 - September 8, 2015

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

College of Liberal Arts & Sciences in the media between August 31 - September 8, 2015

Beyond Denali: Restoring Native American names - CNN.com 

Often times, it's the surveyors coming after the battles that have been fought, mapping "unexplored" regions and making these places their namesake or giving the honor to politicians in power just because they can.

Which explains why Denali, the Alaskan mountain that is the tallest U.S. peak, had been called McKinley since 1896, before William McKinley even won his Republican bid for president.

Sometimes colonists or U.S. citizens renaming these natural wonders chose to respect enshrined Native American names. But many natural wonders still retain names chosen by people who came after the Native Americans. And there's a loss of history when those traditional names are replaced, according to some experts.

"For traditional societies, place names were typically associated with histories and stories and mnemonic devices to aid those societies to find knowledge about anything, such as our environment or who we are as a society," said Jay Johnson, a University of Kansas associate professor of geography, whose research focuses on indigenous peoples' cultural survival.

When other people come in and change the names, "there's certain loss of knowledge," said Johnson. "The restoration of traditional place names is an acknowledgment of traditional society, an acknowledgment of their knowledge of the landscape and their history."

There's not much debate within Alaska over Denali. In Alaska, non-Native Alaskans and Native Alaskans alike call the great mountain "Denali."

And whether people live in Alaska or Outside (as Alaskans put it, with a capital "O"), people benefit from a sense of time that stretches back before the first European explorers, Johnson said.

"For all Americans, it helps us to know our longer history," said Johnson. "While some people argue that McKinley has been the name for more than 100 years, Denali is a name that's been there for thousands of years. Isn't that longer history important to know for us to know as Americans?"


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