Tech giant Google brought Tlingit civil rights advocate Elizabeth Peratrovich to the attention of many Tuesday evening when they ran out a Doodle created by a Southeast artist featuring the iconic activist.
“I was excited to see it. I was surprised. It’s pretty awesome to see,” said Richard Chalyee Éesh Peterson, president of Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, in a phone interview. “Elizabeth and her husband, Roy Peratrovich, are, as far as civil rights activism goes, decades ahead of the rest of the country.”
Peratrovich, born on July 4, 1911, is known for her role in helping pass one of the United States’ first antidiscrimination laws. The Doodle recognizes this day in 1941, when Peratrovich and her husband wrote a letter to the governor of Alaska to gain his support after seeing a sign reading ‘No Natives Allowed’ on an inn in Juneau. After a first anti-discrimination bill failed to pass in 1941, Peratrovich persevered, delivering a blistering speech before the Legislature in 1945.
“For women, for our Native people, for people of color, she was so far ahead of everyone else. And such a class act. So eloquent, articulate,” Peterson said. “Her major speech was such a smackdown on those who classified us as savages.”
The drawing was created by Tlingit artist Michaela Goade, a Sitka-based illustrator of picture books. Goade was excited for the opportunity to raise awareness about Peratrovich, basing her illustration on Peratrovich delivering her famous speech before the Legislature, the artist told Google.
“It meant a lot to work on this project. Elizabeth Peratrovich often doesn’t receive the recognition she deserves, and her story is important, inspiring, and powerful,” Goade said. “To be able to portray this strong Tlingit woman — as a Tlingit artist myself — is a good feeling. It means a great deal to be able to represent our Nation in this way and uplift Elizabeth’s life and work.”
Peratrovich’s representation — and other Tlingit art and culture — is increasing in visibility. Peratrovich appeared on the gold $1 coin this year and Juneau artist recently created the first Tlingit-designed art to be featured in a stamp. This increased representation is coming with a groundswell of appreciation and acceptance of Alaska Native cultures and languages, Peterson said.
“This renaissance has been happening, I would say, for decades,” Peterson said. “This is not a new development. But I think it’s gaining traction.”
The Doodles are one of the Google search engine’s most visible features, rotating to reflect historical figures or current events. Other Doodles that have appeared on Dec. 30 include references to Korean poet Yun Dong-Jue, Saudi Arabian singer Etab and Russian poet Daniil Kharms, according to Google.
“It is my hope that this Doodle helps spread awareness of Elizabeth—who she was, where she came from, and the equality she fought so passionately for,” Goade said.