As the sun began to set and a cool breeze brushed the dock, Tlingit and Athabascan artist, designer, and activist Crystal Kaakeeyaa Worl and her team of apprentices added the final touches to a new mural depicting Elizabeth Kaaxgal.aat Peratrovich, a Tlingit civil rights icon.
About 50 people gathered to celebrate the mural’s completion, honor Peratrovich and thank Worl on the sidewalk below.
Jay Dóosh Tláa Zeller, who served as the Sealaska Heritage Institute project coordinator, admired the mural and celebrated its completion with traditional Tlingit dances.
“It’s amazing and beautiful,” she said. “I know how much work went into it and I’m really proud of everyone.”
Peratrovich, who was born in Petersburg and lived in Juneau, worked for equality for Alaska Natives and is best known for her 1945 speech to the territory Legislature that helped prompt an anti-discrimination law in Alaska almost 20 years before the federal government took similar steps.
Juneau resident Jackie Pata led the group in signing a variety of clan songs as part of the celebration.
“This is an important day,” she told the assembled crowd. “It’s because of leaders, like our Auntie Elizabeth Peratrovich, that our voices will be heard on our grandfather’s land. She was well advanced for her time.”
Jamiann S’eil Tin Hasselquist, vice president of the Alaska Native Sisterhood Camp 2, spoke to the crowd and recounted moving portions of Peratrovich’s speech.
She said the mural’s placement on the south wall of the Marine Parking garage, the structure on which the downtown branch of Juneau’s public library sits, is a place of “honor, dignity and respect.”
“Cruise ship passengers will learn more about what she did for us. It means so much to have her up there and to be known,” she said.
About the mural
The mixed media piece — which is constructed on handpainted portions of parachute cloth — features bold contemporary colors and uses a Northwest Coast form line design. The mural features a large picture of Peratrovich with a raven and sockeye in the background to represent her moiety and clan. Brightly colored salmon eggs in the foreground represent regeneration and looking to the future.
The City and Borough of Juneau own the piece. Sealaska Heritage Institute will provide insurance for and maintain public safety during installation and has agreed to repair the mural for the next ten years.
• Contact reporter Dana Zigmund at email@example.com or 907-308-4891.