Peratrovich legacy continues to grow

New generation will honor Native-rights activist at reception

Posted: Thursday, February 15, 2007

When ANS Camp 2 President Micalyne Kunz McGhee was growing up, her grandmother, Cecelia Kunz, would often talk about Feb. 8, 1945, the day Native rights activist Elizabeth Peratrovich testified before the Territorial Senate.

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"My grandmother was so proud to be in the same room with them that day," McGhee said. "She brought up dozens of children, and our main stepping stone was respect for all nations of people.

"The work that Elizabeth Peratrovich did wasn't just for Natives," she said. "Alaska has grown, and we have many nations of people here. Elizabeth really spoke for all of the people."

Peratrovich's testimony is often credited with helping pass the Anti-Discrimination Act, a landmark bill for Alaska Natives and civil rights. The law barred businesses from running "Whites only" signs and other discriminatory practices against Alaska Natives.

The Alaska Native Brotherhood and Alaska Native Sisterhood have celebrated Feb. 16 as Elizabeth Peratrovich Day since 1989, and will continue that tradition Friday with a reception at 7 p.m. at the ANB Hall.

ANB Camp 2 President Andy Ebona will emcee.

The Alaska Youth Choir and the Anchorage Youth Choir will sing the Alaska Flag Song. The Alaska Native Veterans Color Guard will march.

Know and go

• What: Elizabeth Peratrovich Day reception.

• When: 7 p.m. Friday.

• Where: Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall.

Kindergarten and first-grade students of Kitty Eddy's Tlingit cultural language lab will sing in Tlingit.

Students from the University of Alaska Southeast will perform a dance. Lyle James will speak on the history of the routine. Stacy Roberts will talk about some of the student activities, and Tiffany Sweeney will discuss the celebration of Black History Month.

Sen. Albert Kookesh, D-Angoon, planned to read an Elizabeth Peratrovich Day Resolution, but he has been called to Angoon to attend to the memorials of the victims of last weekend's house fire, event organizer Marie Olson said. Olson is financial secretary of ANS Camp 2.

Another legislator will take his place, but as of press time, that detail was not confirmed.

Buttons with Peratrovich's picture will be sold Friday for $1 or $2, and light refreshments will be served.

McGhee and Priscilla Kunz will visit Gastineau Elementary School at 4:30 p.m. today to talk to the children about Elizabeth Peratrovich Day.

"With all these Native education classes and Native studies that are going on in the middle school and high school, Elizabeth is part of the curriculum," McGhee said. "Elizabeth Peratrovich is our Martin Luther King."

"Everybody knows (Peratrovich), even the younger students," said Marie Olson, one of Friday's organizers and the financial secretary of ANS Camp 2. "I see her pictures in the different schools. Auke Bay Elementary, it's right there at one of the landings as you're going up the stairs, and I think that's neat. The kids in the elementary schools are quite aware of Elizabeth Peratrovich, as the earliest civil rights leader."

• Korry Keeker can be reached at

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