Today we are celebrating Elizabeth Peratrovich – an unsung heroine for the civil rights of the Alaskan Natives!
This year, the United States Mint will commemorate this incredible woman on a $1 coin.
Who is Elizabeth Peratrovich?
Elizabeth was an important civil rights activist and fought for the equality of Alaskan Natives. She was a Tlingit native and grew up in a coastal city in southeast Alaska.
In 1941, Elizabeth and her family moved to Juneau, the capital of the Alaskan territory at the time, to play a larger role in regional politics. By 1944, Elizabeth was elected the grand president of the Alaska Native Sisterhood and her husband Roy was leading the Brotherhood. They dedicated their time to address all instances of discrimination and advocate for a bill to be passed for the equal rights of the Native people of Alaska.
And a year later, in 1945, Elizabeth addressed the Senate of Alaska to discuss the equal rights issue and a bill prohibiting racial discrimination in Alaska. She spoke about the cruel treatment of Alaskan Natives, describing the reality of being denied the right to buy a house in a decent neighbourhood; and being refused entrance to movie theatres and constantly being bombarded by signs in windows that read ‘No dogs or Natives allowed’.
Following this speech, the Senate was shamed into passing the Alaska Anti-Discrimination Act.
It was in 1988, 30 years after her death that the Alaska State Legislature assigned this day as the annual commemoration of Elizabeth Peratrovich and the anniversary of signing the Anti-Discrimination Act. This year, to further recognise her dedication, the United States Mint will commemorate Peratrovich on a $1 coin.
Elizabeth was a courageous woman who would not remain silent about injustice, prejudice and discrimination.
Today we remember Elizabeth Peratrovich and her trailblazing efforts fighting discrimination.