Elizabeth Peratrovich Day Recognized Nationally for Second Year

WASHINGTON—This week, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution, introduced by Senator Dan Sullivan and cosponsored by Senator Lisa Murkowski (both R-Alaska), to nationally recognize February 16, 2024 as “Elizabeth Peratrovich Day,” honoring the historic Alaska civil rights leader who played an instrumental role in the Alaska Territorial Legislature passing the Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945—nearly two decades before the signing of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. This is the second consecutive year Elizabeth Peratrovich Day has been nationally recognized.

“Elizabeth Peratrovich was a true Alaskan hero, standing up against the unfair treatment of Alaska Native people and fighting tirelessly for racial equality, including leading the charge to ensure passage of Alaska’s Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945, nearly 20 years before the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964,” said Sen. Sullivan. “A Tlingit woman from Southeast Alaska, Elizabeth Peratrovich was born and raised in a dark chapter in our history when Alaska Native people were routinely discriminated against and denied equal rights in our state. Her courage and leadership changed Alaska’s history—and American history—for the better, a fact that continues to inspire future generations and places her in the company of America’s foremost civil rights leaders. With the unanimous passage of our resolution, Elizabeth Peratrovich Day is being recognized not just in Alaska, but by the whole nation—a fitting tribute to this great American.”

“It is an honor today to recognize the life and contributions of Elizabeth Peratrovich. Last year and again this year, I invited my colleagues to join me and Senator Sullivan in recognizing Elizabeth Peratrovich day at the national level, a resolution that the Senate unanimously adopted. It's always important and timely to pay attention, to reflect on the legacies of those who have truly worked to advance a more inclusive society and a more representative democracy. Elizabeth continues to serve as an inspiration because she set the example that when you see injustice, you speak out and you take action,” said Sen. Murkowski. “She is one of many Native leaders that advocated for integrating public schools, securing the right to vote for Alaska Natives, laying the groundwork for ANCSA, and bringing about a just settlement for lost lands and rights. Her legacy is one of seeking and realizing a more inclusive society and a more representative democracy.”

Below is the full text of the resolution.

Title: Designating February 16, 2024, as “National Elizabeth Peratrovich Day.”

Whereas Elizabeth Wanamaker Peratrovich, Tlingit, was a member of the Lukaax.ádi clan in the Raven moiety with the Tlingit name of Kaaxgal.aat (referred to in this preamble as “Elizabeth”) who fought for social equality, civil liberties, and respect for Alaska Native and Native American communities;

Whereas Elizabeth, who was born in 1911 in Petersburg, Alaska, experienced discrimination as a Tlingit woman, and dedicated her life to creating a better future for Alaska Natives;

Whereas, more than 6,000 patriotic Alaska Natives protected the United States alongside non-Native Servicemen and women during World War II, despite suffering from unjust discrimination;

Whereas, in 1941, Elizabeth and her husband, Roy Peratrovich, moved to Juneau, the capital city of Alaska, to campaign tirelessly for the passage of the anti-discrimination legislation of Ernest Gruening, the Governor of Alaska, which would later result in the passage of the Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945;

Whereas, in campaigning for the passage of anti-discrimination legislation, Elizabeth persevered for several years traveling across the Alaska Territory enabling, rallying, and uniting Alaska Natives to fight for recognition that they are created equal to others and equally endowed with “unalienable Rights”;

Whereas Elizabeth was a powerful orator who envisioned unity and then spoke it into existence through community advocacy and the support of the Alaska Native Brotherhood and the Alaska Native Sisterhood;

Whereas Elizabeth testified strongly before the Alaska Territorial legislature vote on the Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945, passionately asking the legislature, “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.”;

Whereas the Alaska Territorial Legislature passed the Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945 on February 16, 1945, which was the first anti-discrimination law enacted in the history of the United States;

Whereas Elizabeth dedicated the rest of her life to create a better Alaska for future generations;

Whereas Elizabeth tragically died of cancer in 1958, but her legacy has not been forgotten;

Whereas, beginning in 1988, the State of Alaska has recognized February 16 as Elizabeth Peratrovich Day; and

Whereas, in 2020, the United States Mint released the Elizabeth Peratrovich $1 coin to commemorate the significant impact that Elizabeth had on advancing equality under the law in the United States: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Senate—

(1) designates February 16, 2024, as “National Elizabeth Peratrovich Day”;

(2) calls on the people of the United States to observe National Elizabeth Peratrovich Day by remembering the work of Elizabeth Wanamaker Peratrovich and other civil rights leaders; and

(3) encourages the people of the United States and Members of Congress to commemorate the life and civil rights advocacy of Elizabeth Wanamaker Peratrovich by continuing the important work of ensuring equality for Alaska Natives and Native Americans.

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