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Joint ceremony will unveil permanent exhibit in honor of Elizabeth Peratrovich


February 11, 2017
Saturday AM

(SitNews) Ketchikan, Alaska - The U.S. Forest Service will dedicate the 210-seat theater within the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center located in Ketchikan in honor of civil rights pioneer Elizabeth Peratrovich during a joint ceremony with the Alaska Native Brotherhood (ANB) and Alaska Native Sisterhood (ANS), on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017.

jpg Joint ceremony will unveil permanent exhibit in honor of Elizabeth Peratrovich

Civil Rights Pioneer
Elizabeth Peratrovich

Tongass National Forest Deputy Forest Supervisor Jason Anderson will be joined by ANB Grand Camp President Sasha Soboleff, ANS Grand Camp President Cecelia Tavoliero, Ketchikan Gateway Borough Mayor David Landis, and Betsy Peratrovich, granddaughter of Elizabeth Peratrovich, to speak during the ceremony. Actress Diane Benson, For the Rights of All: Ending Jim Crow in Alaska, will also perform Ms. Peratrovich’s famous speech to the territorial Senate in 1945.

The dedication ceremony will be followed by an Elizabeth Peratrovich Day celebration, led by ANB and ANS, Camps 14 and 15.

Of the Tlingit nation, Elizabeth Peratrovich, née Wanamaker, was a prominent Alaska Native leader and civil rights activist who worked to gain equality for Alaska Natives in the early 1940’s and is credited with the passage of the Alaska Territory’s Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945, the first anti-discrimination law in the United States.

Thursday's dedication is the result of more than a decade of collaboration between the Forest Service and the ANB and ANS, Camps 14 and 15, to help the communities of Ketchikan and Saxman come together and celebrate Elizabeth Peratrovich Day. In addition to renaming the theater, a permanent exhibit will be unveiled which details the history of Elizabeth Peratrovich, and her work with the ANB and ANS to gain civil rights for all in Alaska.

The Anti-Discrimination Act was at first defeated by the territorial legislature in 1943. However, as leaders of the Alaska Native Brotherhood and the Alaska Native Sisterhood, Elizabeth Peratrovich along with her husband Roy, lobbied the territory's legislators and represented their organizations in their testimony. On Feburary 16, 1945, Elizabeth Peratrovich was the last to testify before Alaska's territorial Senate voted on the bill, and her impassioned testimony was considered decisive.

jpg he bill was signed into law by Governor Gruening, nearly 20 years before the U.S. Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Pictured at the signing are Roy and Elizabeth Peratrovich. The bill was signed into law by Governor Gruening, nearly 20 years before the U.S. Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Acts of the Alaska territorial legislature required final approval from the U.S. Congress, which affirmed it.
Photo courtesy Alaska State Library

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.

Doors open and refreshments will be available at 5:30 pm Thursday. The ceremony will begin at 6:30 p.m.

The Southeast Alaska Discovery Center is located at 50 Main Street in Ketchikan. The unveiling of the exhibit, performance by Diane Benson, and Native dances performed during the celebration will be live cast via Facebook and Twitter.


Related Feature Article:

On February 16th, Alaska Celebrates Civil Rights Pioneer Elizabeth Peratrovich By DAVE KIFFER - Elizabeth Jean Wanamaker Peratrovich is often referred to as the Martin Luther King of Alaska, but the truth is she was fighting for equal rights for Alaska Natives a decade before Martin Luther King gained fame during the Civil Rights movement. - More...
SitNews - February 16, 2012

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Editing by Mary Kauffman, SitNews


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U.S. Forest Service



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