Alaskans Honor Civil Rights Leader Elizabeth Peratrovich
Elizabeth Peratrovich started civil rights movement for Alaska Natives
ALASKA - Thursday Alaskans honored a civil rights leader who made a big difference for Alaska Natives.
Long before Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. gave his speech about a dream of equality for all Elizabeth Peratrovich was speaking up for the rights of the state's first people.
“You weren’t allowed to go sit and eat in a restaurant and you were pretty much treated the same as if you were a dog,” said Lucretia McHugh of Alaska Native Sisterhood.
Peratrovich was a Tlinglit, who stepped before the territorial legislature in 1945 and made a passionate speech that led to the passage of the first anti-discrimination bill since the civil war.
Thursday in Washington D.C. Senator Mark Begich spoke out about her efforts.
“In the face of this discrimination, Miss Peratovitch, demonstrated courage in her convictions,” said Begich. “Courage, which changed the course of civil rights treatment for Alaska Natives.”
Peratrovich’s push for civil rights has benefited Alaska Natives, influencing a new generation of pride in culture and language, but many say her work is unfinished.
“I have never drank, I've never been a drinker, I don't use drugs, I don't smoke,” said McHugh. “So that is one of the things that natives have to tolerate from uneducated persons, stereotyping and putting us all in one category.”
Many credit Peratrovich with getting things started, but say its up to their generation to make sure her legacy doesn’t fade away.
“We as Alaska Native people today have to step up and carry the mantle,” said Marvin Adams of Alaska Native Brotherhood. “She'd be looking down on us and saying now it's your turn – keep it going.”