Alaska and the nation celebrate Elizabeth Peratrovich Day

Today is Elizabeth Peratrovich day where we honor the legacy of an Alaska civil rights leader.
Published: Feb. 17, 2023 at 9:19 AM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - An Alaskan woman has been recognized nationally for her courageous efforts in fighting for social equality, civil liberties, and respect for Alaska Native and Native American communities.

On Thursday, the U.S. Senate honored the legacy of Elizabeth Wanamaker Peratrovich, unanimously passing a resolution recognizing February 16th as “Elizabeth Peratrovich Day” nationally for the first time.

The state of Alaska first recognized “Elizabeth Peratrovich Day” in 1988, 30 years after her death from cancer in 1958.

Peratrovich was a Tlingit woman, born in Petersberg, Alaska. Growing up, she experienced discrimination and dedicated her life to creating a better future for Alaska Natives.

In a statement from Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan, he wrote, “Elizabeth Peratrovich’s words and courage were a light shining through a dark chapter in our history when Alaska Native people were routinely discriminated against and signs reading “No Dogs or Natives Allowed” degraded our communities,” said Sullivan. “Elizabeth fought tirelessly for racial equality in Alaska decades before the passage of the landmark national Civil Rights Act, a legacy that continues to inspire future generations and places her in the company of America’s foremost civil rights leaders, like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Susan B. Anthony.”

After World War II, Alaska Natives were discriminated against even those who fought in the war. They were restricted on medical treatment, schooling, and where they could live.

Peratrovich and her husband Roy were influential with their campaigns and petitions, enlisting other Alaska Natives for help and lobbying territorial legislators for support.

The Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945 was passed in the House and then sent to the Senate.

Peratrovich testified before the Alaska Territorial Legislature helping to enact the Anti-Discrimination Act, which passed on February 16th, 1945. This was the first anti-discrimination law enacted in the history of the United States.

Now, 78 years after that historical speech, her story has not been forgotten, and future generations continue to learn about Peratrovich’s life, her fight for equality, and the courage it took to make it all happen.

Many Alaskans have recognized Peratrovich and her achievements over the years. Holding potlatches, educating communities and schools, and creating murals in her honor.

The United States Mint issued 5-million, 1-dollar coins honoring Peratrovich.

A link to the Senate’s Resolution can be found here.