Courtesy Photo / Alaska State Library - Historical Collections 
Gov. Ernest Gruening (seated) signs the anti-discrimination act of 1945. Witnessing are O. D. Cochran, Elizabeth Peratrovich, Edward Anderson, Norman Walker and Roy Peratrovich.

Courtesy Photo / Alaska State Library - Historical Collections Gov. Ernest Gruening (seated) signs the anti-discrimination act of 1945. Witnessing are O. D. Cochran, Elizabeth Peratrovich, Edward Anderson, Norman Walker and Roy Peratrovich.

Officials honor Elizabeth Peratrovich day with proclamations

With physical gatherings limited, virtual events and statements marked the day.

Tribal and state officials recognized the 76th anniversary of an anti-discrimination bill spurred on by Elizabeth Wanamaker Peratrovich’s fiery 1945 speech before the Territorial Legislature with messages, proclamations and commemoration.

The Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, state lawmakers and Gov. Mike Dunleavy issued proclamations observing the Elizabeth Peratrovich Day holiday. Elizabeth Peratrovich Day first became a state holiday in 1988.

It has been 76 years since Elizabeth Peratrovich took to the floor of the Alaska Senate and gave her powerful speech…

Posted by Tlingit & Haida on Tuesday, 16 February 2021

Tlingit and Haida President Richard Chalyee Éesh Peterson cited a famous line of Peratrovich’s address in his proclamation.

“I would not have expected that I, who am barely out of savagery, would have to remind the gentlemen with 5,000 years of recorded civilization behind them of our Bill of Rights,” Peratrovich said in her address to the territorial government.

Alaska Natives were regularly discriminated against in the state before the passage of the Alaska Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945, despite one of the highest rates of military service in the country, Dunleavy said in his release.

“Despite being granted citizenship in 1924, having fought alongside white comrades in World War II, and paying taxes, among other things, Alaska Natives were consistently discriminated against and restricted on where they could eat, live, receive medical care, and attend school,” read the governor’s proclamation.

Peratrovich’s legacy lives on more visible than ever, appearing on the $1 coin and in a Google Doodle drawn by Tlingit artist Michaela Goade.

“Let us all remember her today and her tireless work which laid the foundation for a better future for us all,” Tlingit and Haida wrote in a social media post.

The Alaska Native Brotherhood and Alaska Native Sisterhood also held a virtual celebration for Peratrovich on their website, https://www.anbansgc.org/.

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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