Elizabeth Peratrovich Day, Sunday February 16, 2020 - The face of Alaska Native civil rights

PETERSBURG ­– The Petersburg Indian Association, Petersburg Arts Council and Petersburg ANB/ANS hosted the first annual Elizabeth Peratrovich Day celebration on Sunday to honor the woman who spearheaded Alaska's Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945.

The ceremony began with a march down Nordic Dr. that began at the Trading Union and ended at the John Hanson Sr. Hall where the celebration continued. Master of Ceremonies Nathan Lopez acknowledged the work that Peratrovich and her husband Roy did for civil rights in the state, which inspired others throughout the country.

"How different would our country be if she didn't inspire other civil rights leaders?" said Lopez. "Today, we celebrate Elizabeth Peratrovich and her stand for things that matter."

After Lopez gave his opening remarks, Johnson O'Malley dancers and elders from Wrangell entered the building wearing traditional Tlingit garb, while dancing and singing for those present. They performed about six songs, one of which was a paddle song that was performed outside of the building to let the Petersburg Tlingit Tribe know they were coming. The JOM dancers and elders will also be performing the same songs at Celebration 2020 in Juneau.

Community elder Raymond Duqaqua addressed the crowd along with PIA Vice President Brenda Norheim and ANS/AN Camp 16 Presidents Barbara Erickson and Joseph Stewart.

Norheim reminded the crowd that Peratrovich was born in Petersburg on July 5, 1911 and was a main driving force of Alaska's Anti-Discrimination Act.

"She was a woman; a Tlingit woman," said Norheim.

Adam Ware, Heather Berkeley and Adrianna Stough read letters written by Peratrovich, including a correspondence between her and Alaska Provincial Governor Ernest Gruening. Peratrovich first wrote the governor telling him about a sign outside of the Douglas Inn in Anchorage that forbids natives from entering. Gruening replies that he has invited the owner of the Douglas Inn to meet with him and will persuade the owner into taking the sign down.

"I fully agree with you," wrote Gruening in a letter read by Berkeley. "The sign is offensive, contrary to American principles and unjustified in every way."

Diane Lexis Benson started reading Peratrovich's speech she gave before legislators, but halfway through, Avery Hermann-Sakamoto finished reading it as a way to pass along everything Peratrovich stood for to a younger generation.

Ross Nannauck III led the crowd in singing "Ch'a aade yei oonatee gaa," also known as the Tlingit National Anthem, and invited everyone present to stand with him.

In her closing remarks, Malena Marvin introduced the Elizabeth Peratrovich Mural Project, which is an effort to have a mural of the native civil rights leader painted on the side of the Petersburg Courthouse.

"This is the work going forward of telling these stories and making these voices and faces a visible part of our community," said Marvin.


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