Strange Facebook Meme About Meaning Of ‘Denali’

Sam Seder

According to USA Today, Mount McKinley — the 20,237-foot mountain and the tallest in North America — has been renamed Denali, as it was originally known by Alaska Natives before it was renamed to honor President William McKinley.

The mountain sits in the 6 million-acre Denali national park, has been known as Denali in Alaska since 1975. Under an order signed by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, the Denali name will also take effect for all federal usage and, therefore, on all official maps.

The order was signed Friday, and the White House asked that it be announced Monday. The White House said the name change “recognizes the sacred status of Denali to generations of Alaska Natives.”

A facebook meme has been going around since the change claiming that the meaning of “Denali” is “Black Power” in the Kenyan language.  That was recently debunked by

“First, there is no ‘Kenyan word’ for anything,” according to  Kenya has two official languages: English and Swahili.

Second, “Denali” does not mean “black power” in either English or Swahili. The word for black in Swahili is “mweusi” and the word for power is “nguvu.” There’s also no definition for “Denali” in the Merriam-Webster dictionary that mentions such an etymology or meaning.

In the indigenous Athabaskan language of western North America, however, “Denali” does have a meaning. Alaskans have been using the word “Denali,” which means “the great one,” as a name for Mount McKinley for centuries. The state of Alaska has also been officially using the name Denali for Mount McKinley since 1975.



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