Sitka Celebrated Elizabeth Peratrovich Day with a parade and celebration at the ANB Founders’ Hall. Here are some pictures from the parade. To read the history of the holiday, scroll below the pics.
February 16 is Elizabeth Peratrovich Day in Alaksa. With today’s political climate of demonizing the other, repeating this story is more important than ever. In 1945, during the debate in the Alaska Territorial Legislature on a bill mandating equal accommodation for people of all races, a senator asked “who are these people, barely out of savagery, to demand equality with people with 5 thousand years of civilization behind them?” In 1945 it was the custom to allow testimony from the Senate Gallery. Elizabeth Peratrovich, a Native Alaskan leader, rose and said:
“I would not have expected, that I, who am barely out of savagery, would have to remind gentlemen with five thousand years of recorded civilization behind them of our Bill or Rights. When my husband and I came to Juneau and sought a home in a nice neighborhood where our children could play happily with our neighbors’ children, we found such a house and had arranged to lease it. When the owners learned that we were Indians, they said ‘no.’ Would we be compelled to live in the slums?”
“There are three kinds of persons who practice discrimination. First, the politician who wants to maintain an inferior minority group so that he can always promise them something. Second, the Mr. and Mrs. Jones who aren’t quite sure of their social position and who are nice to you on one occasion and can’t see you on others, depending on who they are with. Third, the great superman who believes in the superiority of the white race.”
Alaska was the first jurisdiction in the United States to pass an equal accommodation law.
The bill passed. That night, even though the law was not yet in effect, Elizabeth and Roy Peratrovich danced, for the first time, in the Baranof Hotel ballroom. Today we all dance in Elizabeth and Roy’s honor.