SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Elizabeth Peratrovich Day: Honoring Our Youth
By Marie L. Monyak


February 16, 2006

Ketchikan, Alaska - In 1988 the Alaska Legislature established February 16th as "Elizabeth Peratrovich Day" to commemorate the anniversary of the signing of the Anti-Discrimination Act. Every year Alaskans celebrate the day and remember Peratrovich's efforts to achieve equality and justice for all Alaskans of every race, creed and ethnic background.

This past Saturday, the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Alaska Native Sisterhood of Saxman and Ketchikan began their celebrations leading up to Elizabeth Peratrovich Day with a reception at the Plaza Mall.

jpg Peratrovich Reception Group

Reception at the Plaza Mall on Saturday
BOTTOM row: Cecelia Johnson, Nathan Jackson, Winona Wallace, Thurston Ketah.
TOP row: Janice Jackson, Mark Hill, Bill Bird, Elais Blair, Kathy Joseph.

Organizers Bill Bird and Janice Jackson served refreshments and answered questions in an effort to make the public aware of Elizabeth Peratrovich and of her great accomplishment in gaining equality for all races.

The next day, Sunday, a police escorted car parade traveled through town from Tatsuda's to WalMart and back to Safeway where participants were treated to a bar-b-que, all in an effort to not only celebrate a day so important to our Native peoples but to educate the public as well.

jpg ANB and ANS

Alaska Native Brotherhood and Alaska Native Sisterhood - Wednesday
Photograph by Marie L. Monyak

On Wednesday evening the 15th a celebration and presentation was held at the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center. This year's theme was "Honoring our Youth" and it was evident by the number of youth from Saxman and Ketchikan that performed.

The evening began with a processional of the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Alaska Native Sisterhood from Camps #14 and #15 to the talented music of Fred John, CC Johnson, Amelia McAlpin and Ken Arriola.

Richard Jackson, the Master of Ceremonies welcomed those assembled and introduced the first guest speaker, Carrie James, the President of ANS Camp 14 who spoke about the presentation she gave on Elizabeth Peratrovich earlier in the day to a group of 8th graders, helping them to understand the ground breaking accomplishments of Peratrovich twenty years prior to Martin Luther Kings battle for equal rights.

jpg Mayor Williams

Ketchikan Borough Mayor & Saxman Mayor Joe Williams.
Standing next to Mayor Williams is his son Jonath.
Photograph by Marie L. Monyak

The next guest speaker was Laverne John, ANS President of Camp 15, who gave a brief speech reminding everyone that they should honor Peratrovich as the great civil rights leader that she was and is now known for, in the history books.

Jackson proceeded to introduce Joe Williams, the Mayor of Saxman and also Mayor of the Ketchikan Gateway Borough. Williams asked his son Jonathan stand by him at the podium as a symbol of the direction of the future. Williams began, "I am doing this with great honor, partly in memory of my mother and father, as they were past Presidents [of ANB and ANS]." Williams went on to read his official Mayor's Proclamation commemorating February 16th as Elizabeth Peratrovich Day.

Acting as Ketchikan Borough Mayor, he read in part, "Whereas in 1988 the Alaska Legislature established February 16th as the annual Elizabeth Peratrovich Day by Executive Proclamation; now therefore, be it hereby proclaimed that the Ketchikan Gateway Borough commemorates Elizabeth Peratrovich for her work. Let us honor the principles of Elizabeth Peratrovich, which are really Alaskan principles in their truest form."

jpg Mayor Weinstein

City of Ketchikan Mayor Bob Weinstein
Photo by Marie L. Monyak

Following Mayor Williams was City of Ketchikan Mayor Bob Weinstein who was to read from his Official Proclamation signed on January 19, 2006. Weinstein began first by expressing the privilege and honor he felt at being present to celebrate such an important person.

Mayor Weinstein proceeded to read his Official Proclamation which had several noteworthy statements. Weinstein read, "Whereas, individuals like Elizabeth Peratrovich and Martin Luther King Jr. contributed to the diversity which has made this nation strong by fighting for equal rights of all Alaskans and all Americans; and"

jpg Peratrovich portrayed by Danielle Grams

Danielle Grams portrayed Elizabeth Peratrovich giving her remarkable 1945 statement to the Senate.
Photograph by Marie L. Monyak

He continued, "Whereas, Ketchikan residents have been working over the years to promote and support programs that foster understanding and appreciation among various ethnic and cultural groups in our community"

The Mayor went on to officially proclaim the period from January 16th, Martin Luther King Day, to February 16th Elizabeth Peratrovich Day, to be; "Celebrating Ketchikan's Diversity Month."

The next presentation was by Christa Olofson who spoke briefly about Elizabeth Peratrovich. Olofson then introduced Myrna Chaney who would narrate the events of the day Peratrovich spoke before the Senate in 1945 and Danielle Grams who would portray Peratrovich giving her remarkable statement to the Senate.

Chaney read the question posed by Alaska Senator Shattuck on that historic day, "Do you think the proposed anti-discrimination bill will eliminate discrimination?"

Grams, in the role of Peratrovich replied, "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."

concluded with the recorded observations of the day, "There was a loud burst of applause from the gallery and Senate floor alike" Impressed and convinced by a five-foot five-inch Tlingit woman, the Senate passed the Anti-Discrimination Bill on February 8th 1945.

In keeping with the theme, "Honoring our Youth," the next to perform was the Johnson O'Malley Kichxaan Dancers and Saxman Youth of Cape Fox followed by the Haida Descendants who performed traditional Native songs and dances.

Several of the Student Essay winners came forward to read their essays and they all appeared to have a common theme of disbelief, that had they lived before 1945, they would not have been allowed to attend school with their friends or even have friends whose color skin did not match their own. Each essayist expressed gratitude that they are not deprived of their basic human rights today.

jpg Haida Descendants

Haida Descendants performed traditional Native songs and dances.
Photograph by Marie L. Monyak

Jackson, the Master of Ceremonies called musician Fred John forward to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award for Music and teacher Sheila Blankenship to receive a Certificate of Appreciation for her commitment to her students and for promoting Native culture.

Once more the audience was treated to the musical talents of CC Johnson and Amelia McAlpin who sang several entertaining duets, ending with Onward Christian Soldiers.

Cecelia Johnson, Vice President of ANS Camp #14 concluded the evening's presentation with a closing prayer and an invitation to join in the reception held downstairs.


View A Elizabeth Peratrovich Day Photo Gallery by Carl Thompson

Marie L. Monyak is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Contact Marie at mlm1x[at]


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