Anchorage Daily News: U.S. Senate passes resolution to designate Feb. 16 as National Elizabeth Peratrovich Day

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate approved a resolution Thursday that designates Feb. 16, 2023, as National Elizabeth Peratrovich Day in honor of the Tlingit civil rights leader.

 The resolution, which was led by Alaska Republican Sens. Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski, passed the Senate unanimously on a day when Alaskans were already celebrating Elizabeth Peratrovich Day at the state level. The Senate resolution recognizes Peratrovich’s contributions to Alaska history, including her fight again racial discrimination.

 Peratrovich was born in Petersburg in 1911, and at points in her life, she faced voting, housing and other forms of discrimination. Through her leadership of the Alaska Native Sisterhood, she advocated for civil rights legislation in Juneau with her husband, Roy Peratrovich. She died of cancer in 1958.

 The three-page Senate resolution details Elizabeth Peratrovich’s background, including her campaign for Alaska’s Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945, which made it illegal to discriminate based on race. The resolution also calls Peratrovich a “powerful orator” and quotes her testimony about the Anti-Discrimination Act before the Alaska Territorial Legislature’s vote.

 “Have you eliminated larceny or murder by passing a law against it? No law will eliminate crimes, but at least you as legislators, can assert to the world that you recognize the evil of the present situation and speak your intent to help us overcome discrimination,” the resolution quotes Peratrovich as saying.

 Since 1988, Alaska has officially celebrated Elizabeth Peratrovich Day on Feb. 16 — the day in 1945 when the Anti-Discrimination Act was signed into law — and in 2020, the U.S. Mint released a commemorative dollar coin commemorating Peratrovich.

 Peratrovich mural installation

Marcus Hines and Logan Terry glue together parts of a mural commemorating the life of Elizabeth Peratrovich. The mural, seen Sept. 1, 2021, was designed by artist Crystal Worl and installed on a city parking garage in Juneau. (James Brooks / ADN archive)

 Celebrations of Peratrovich and her civil rights legacy were underway across the state Thursday, and organizations throughout Alaska honored Peratrovich in statements and on social media.

 “It has been 78 years since Elizabeth Wanamaker Peratrovich, Kaaxgal.aat, took to the floor of the Alaska Senate and gave her powerful speech that led to the passage of Alaska’s Anti-Discrimination Bill in 1945 ... Today, let us all remember her and her tireless work which laid the foundation for a better future for us all!” the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska said on social media.

 The Native American Rights Fund also called for a Native American Voting Rights Act “to address the unique voting obstacles faced by Native voters” in honor of Peratrovich.

 Murkowski gave a speech Thursday on the Senate floor recognizing Peratrovich.

 “She is an inspiration because she set the example that when you see injustice, you speak out, you take action,” Murkowski said. “And she also provided a great example for why we need to listen to the perspective of all voices, especially those that have been left out or left behind.”

 Sullivan highlighted Peratrovich’s civil rights leadership in a statement on social media.

 “Elizabeth Peratrovich fought for racial equality in Alaska decades before the ‘64 Civil Rights Act, a legacy that places her among America’s foremost civil rights leaders,” he said. On Elizabeth Peratrovich Day, “we honor this great American who changed Alaska — and America — for the better.”

By:  Riley Rogerson
Source: Anchorage Daily News