Alaska Native Sisterhood President Kevin Allen, left, escorts Keynote speaker Joaqlin Estus to the podium during the Elizabeth Peratrovich Day Celebration at the University of Alaska Southeast on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Alaska Native Sisterhood President Kevin Allen, left, escorts Keynote speaker Joaqlin Estus to the podium during the Elizabeth Peratrovich Day Celebration at the University of Alaska Southeast on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Haa daat has nák, haa léelk‘u hás: Elizabeth Peratrovich Day celebration honors lesser-known figures

Elizabeth Peratrovich’s most famous quote is by now the stuff of legend.

Speaking before the territorial government of Alaska on Feb. 5, 1945, the Alaska Native civil rights leader roused ‘volleys’ of applause from the gallery, as the Daily Alaska Empire, a previous incarnation of the Juneau Empire told it.

Part of that speech included the biting retort for which the figure is now known.

“I would not have expected that I, who am barely out of savagery, would have to remind gentlemen with 5,000 years of recorded civilization behind them, of our Bill of Rights,” she said.

Alaska Native leaders and community members celebrated Peratrovich’s legacy Friday at the University of Alaska Southeast Egan Library. The theme of the celebration was Haa daat has nák, haa léelku hás which translates in English as “our grandparents are standing around us (giving us support).”

Friday’s celebration made it clear that Peratrovich stood on the shoulders of those who came before her, and those who came after, in turn, were only able to make a difference standing on hers.

Living Native leaders were honored with two honorary koogeinaa or sashes. The Alaska Native Sisterhood, camp 2, honored sister Ann Chilton, while ANS Glacier Valley, camp 70, honored longtime sister Anne Fuller.

Elizabeth Peratrovich was a matriarch, Alaska Native Brotherhood Grand Camp President Sasha Soboleff said. Though not many outside the community know it, women are the decision-makers in Tlingit society, he said.

As such Peratrovich is a model on how to be a leader. Soboleff called for tolerance and “simultaneousness” between Alaska Native and non-Native Alaskans.

“The opposite of to tolerate is to be closed-minded. That leads to class-like societies which are unable to coexist,” Soboleff said.

The task of continued toleration will fall to the next generation.

“Elizabeth Peratrovich set the mark long before Martin Luther King Jr. did. Elizabeth and Roy Peratrovich put their necks on the line,” Soboleff said. “Today, these tasks that we have are for you, and for you, and you.”

Keynote speaker Joaqlin Estus is a special projects consultant for KNBA FM, an Alaska Native-owned and operated public radio station serving Anchorage and Southcentral Alaska.

She educated the audience on the history of Alaska Native rights. Early Native rights activists borrowed from the black rights movement in America by focusing their efforts first on education and voting rights.

They knew those were the two quickest ways to truly equalize Alaska’s early laws. The Tlingit led the way in many respects on Native rights issues, Estus said.

One of the most overlooked challenges Alaska Natives faced in Alaska’s history was a forbiddance from filing mining claims. Chief Kowee or Cowee of the Auk Tlingits may have led Joe Juneau and Richard Harris to gold, but early laws wouldn’t allow him to share the riches.

Many Native leaders in Alaska’s territorial history were forced into Borough of Indian Affairs territorial schools. BIA schools forced Natives to assimilate to western cultural practices, to speak and write English and wear Western-style suits.

Estus recognized Alaska’s first Native attorney William L. Paul and publisher Louis F. Paul, as two forebearers of Peratrovich. They used their education — one with lawsuits, the other with newspapers — to help further Native rights.

Estus mentioned two others in her speech — Molly Hootch of Emmonak and Katie Johns and her fish camp — as Alaska Native women who made an impact in the fight for equal rights.

Though much has been done, much work remains, Estus said, in making Alaska truly equal. Alaska Natives have a life expectancy seven years shorter than their non-Native counterparts, Estus said, and make up a disproportionate share of Alaska’s prison population. Sovereign nation rights have, at least until Gov. Bill Walker’s Administration, been under attack by the State of Alaska, Estus said.

The burden of confronting these challenges will fall on subsequent generations, Soboleff said. To topple them, Alaskans must think like Elizabeth and seize that one, crucial moment to make change.

“Tolerate one another. Respect one another in the society that we live in. And above all, when you are in that key moment, always remember that our elders gave you those opportunities to shine,” Soboleff said.


• Contact reporter Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 and kevin.gullufsen@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @KevinGullufsen.


Elizabeth Peratrovich, pictured at 34 years old. (Photo courtesy Roy Peratrovich Jr.)

Elizabeth Peratrovich, pictured at 34 years old. (Photo courtesy Roy Peratrovich Jr.)

Roy Peratrovich Sr. and his framed Alaska Native Brotherhood card. (Photo courtesy Roy Peratrovich Jr.)

Roy Peratrovich Sr. and his framed Alaska Native Brotherhood card. (Photo courtesy Roy Peratrovich Jr.)

Haa daat has nák, haa léelk‘u hás: Elizabeth Peratrovich Day celebration honors lesser-known figures

Roy Peratrovich Sr. and his framed Alaska Native Brotherhood card. (Photo courtesy Roy Peratrovich Jr.)

More in News

Jasmine Chavez, a crew member aboard the Quantum of the Seas cruise ship, waves to her family during a cell phone conversation after disembarking from the ship at Marine Park on May 10. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Ships in port for the week of May 18

Here’s what to expect this week.

Juneau high school seniors Edward Hu of Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé (left), Elizabeth Djajalie of Thunder Mountain High School (center) and Kenyon Jordan of Yaaḵoosgé Daakahídi Alternative High School. (Photos of Hu and Jordan by Juneau Empire staff, photo of Djajalie by Victor Djajalie)
Senior Spotlight 2024: Three top students take very different paths to graduation stage

Ceremonies for Juneau’s three high schools take place Sunday.

The entrance road to Bartlett Regional Hospital. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire file photo)
Bartlett Regional Hospital looking at eliminating or trimming six ‘non-core’ programs to stabilize finances

Rainforest Recovery Center, autism therapy, crisis stabilization, hospice among programs targeted.

A king salmon. (Ryan Hagerty/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Biden administration advances bid to list Gulf of Alaska king salmon as endangered or threatened

Experts say request could restrict activity affecting river habitats such as road, home construction

Mayor Beth Weldon (left), Deputy Mayor Michelle Bonnet Hale and Juneau Assembly member Paul Kelly discussion proposals for next year’s mill rate during an Assembly Finance Committee meeting on Wednesday night. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Assembly members support lower 10.04 mill rate ahead of final vote on next year’s CBJ budget

Initial proposal called for raising current rate of 10.16 mills to 10.32 mills.

Dave Scanlan, general manager of Eaglecrest Ski Area, speaks to the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly Finance Committee on April 13, 2023. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
Dave Scanlan forced out as Eaglecrest’s general manager, says decision ‘came as a complete shock to me’

Resort’s leader for past 7 years says board seeking a “more office-process, paper-oriented” manager.

The entrance to the Alaska Gasline Development Corp.’s Anchorage office is seen on Aug. 11, 2023. The state-owned AGDC is pushing for a massive project that would ship natural gas south from the North Slope, liquefy it and send it on tankers from Cook Inlet to Asian markets. The AGDC proposal is among many that have been raised since the 1970s to try commercialize the North Slope’s stranded natural gas. (Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Eight young Alaskans sue to block proposed trans-Alaska natural gas pipeline

Plaintiffs cite climate change that harms their access to fish, wildlife and natural resources.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Tuesday, May 21, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Most Read