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Elizabeth Peratrovich Day 2024: History, Significance and Facts

Elizabeth Peratrovich, an activist in the United States, significantly influenced racial relations in Alaska, advocating for equal rights for Native Alaskans.

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Elizabeth Peratrovich Day 2024: On February 16, celebrate Elizabeth Peratrovich Day in honor of the American activist who helped usher in a new era in racial relations in Alaska. Throughout her life, she battled for Native Alaskans’ equal rights; as a result, every year on February 16, Alaskans gather to honor her icon. Although this is not a federal holiday in the United States, several establishments, shops, and institutions in Alaska close on this day.

The Background of Elizabeth Peratrovich Day

Peratrovich, who is an Alaska Native belonging to the Lukaax clan of the Tlingit nation (sometimes written Tlinkit), experienced prejudice at a very young age. Her career as an activist began with these seeds.

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To have better access to legislators who could assist the couple in bringing about change in their town, she moved to Juneau, Alaska, with her family eight years after marrying fellow activist Roy Peratrovich in 1933. Due to their racial identification, the couple experienced the same prejudice there and was even denied housing while attempting to purchase one. The couple noticed a “No Natives Allowed” sign on an inn’s door in December of the year they moved. They were furious about this and wanted action. They claimed that Native American boys were fighting side by side with white boys in World War II to defend the freedom that the latter enjoyed in a letter to Alaskan Governor Ernest H. Gruening.

This letter catalyzed Peratrovich’s push to pass an anti-discrimination measure. She pushed the bill to the House in 1943 with Governor Gruening’s support, but it was defeated in a tie vote. But Peratrovich was not to be deterred, and she and her husband toured Alaska while calling on the Native Americans to take up arms.

After years of effort, the Alaska Senate was presented with a second anti-discrimination measure in 1945. When asked about these people, who were “barely out of savagery,” and why they wanted to interact with people who had centuries of civilization behind them, Peratrovich had a succinct response. Taking the floor, she declared, “I never thought that I, a mere descendant of savagery, would have to remind the gentlemen with five millennia of documented civilization behind them of our Bill of Rights.” Additionally, she claimed that this measure will formally acknowledge the issue of racial discrimination and demonstrate the intention to address it. Across the state, her fervent request was greeted with booming applause and overwhelming support. Best of all, the Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945 was passed, which is a historic law.

At the age of 47, she carried on working till the day of her death. In Juneau’s Evergreen Cemetery, she was laid to rest next to her spouse under the shelter of a Sitka pine. This gravesite is open for visitors to pay their respects on this day every year thanks to a groundskeeper.

Governor Steve Cowper of Alaska declared April 21st, 1988, Elizabeth Peratrovich Day in her honor for her contributions to racial equality in the state. The commemoration was then rescheduled for February 16 to commemorate the day the Anti-Discrimination Act was approved.

Every year on this day, Alaskans rediscover her works and pay respects to her grave. She is revered in the minds of all, and there are parks and public monuments named in her honor.

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A Guide To Elizabeth Peratrovich Day Observations

Study up on this legend in the books.

Numerous books, papers, and articles have been written about Elizabeth Peratrovich’s life. Look for pertinent ebooks, etc., online or, for a more traditional approach, purchase a book on her from your neighborhood bookshop or borrow one from the library.

Find out more about her

You can view the 2009 video “For the Rights of All: Ending Jim Crow in Alaska” or subscribe to director Laura Boersma’s podcast “She’s History,” which includes an episode on our heroine.

Wander through the life of Peratrovich.

The National Museum of the American Indian at the Smithsonian Institute has meticulously preserved Peratrovich’s life and work. For visitors to this region, the Alaska House of Representatives also has a Peratrovich Gallery. You can either take actual tours or see if any of these locations also provide virtual tours.

Elizabeth Peratrovich: Five Fascinating Facts About Her Work

  • Alaska is the first state in the union to outlaw racial discrimination since the 19th century thanks to the 1945 Anti-Discriminatory Law.
  • Following in their mother’s footsteps, Elizabeth’s sons continued the family history. Older son Roy Jr. constructed Juneau’s unique Brotherhood Bridge, which is named in honor of the Alaskan Native Brotherhood, while younger son Frank worked as the Tribal Operations Officer for the Juneau Bureau of Indian Affairs.
  • Knitting while attending parliamentary sessions and even during her well-known 1945 speech to the House, Peratrovich would bring her knitting with her to work.
  • “The Daily Alaska Empire” praised Elizabeth’s 1945 speech before the Alaska Senate, calling it the “neatest performance” and asserting that it embarrassed the opposition into a “defensive whisper.”
  • Being a well-known professional wrestler, she was familiar with all of Gorgeous George’s moves and would even yell at the TV when she saw him compete.

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Why it matters: Elizabeth Peratrovich Day

It’s all about getting well-earned credit.

Not only is she honored as a significant civil rights leader, but her cause also receives increased attention.

Even now, her work continues to have an impact.

She spoke out against discrimination and changed things with her words. Her actions were significant at the time and remain so now.

Her struggle motivates us to fight

She gives us the courage to never give up and to speak up for what we believe in.

ELIZABETH PERATROVICH DAY DATES

Year Date Day
2024 February 16 Friday
2025 February 16 Sunday
2026 February 16 Monday
2027 February 16 Tuesday
2028 February 16 Wednesday

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