by Greg Lincoln
Every year on February 16th, Alaskans throughout our state remember and honor Elizabeth Peratrovich. Today, we will continue this tradition.
Elizabeth Peratrovich was born in Petersburg, Alaska, on July 4, 1911, and a member of the Lukaaxh.adi Clan of the Raven moiety of the Tlingit nation. In the early 1940s, she was the Alaska Native Sisterhood Grand President and became a fighter for the civil rights movement in Alaska.
In 1945, she spoke in support of HB 14, the Anti-Discrimination Act, challenging the Territorial Legislature, her response was, when asked whether the bill would end discrimination, “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.”
Through her efforts, legislative support needed for the passage of the Bill was gained, which was approved by the Territorial Legislature on February 6, 1945. This was nearly two decades before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 became law on the federal level.
On February 12, 2019, Governor Dunleavy issued a proclamation to honor her and her memory. At Mt. Edgecumbe high school, the students and staff celebrate Founders Week with special guests and activities and the Elizabeth Peratrovich Day Parade.
In our own ways, we can also honor those that have passed on before us. This is usually a meaningful something that helps us to keep our departed loved ones from fading away. We must never let that fading away happen. Let us not let memory grow dim or foggy and one way is to show our love and respect through a tribute.
A tribute shows your love or admiration to someone or something and it is something that you do or say, or even build or make. Sometimes it is a gift made in honor of their name that shows your gratitude and your respect.
In our Yup’ik culture, gift giving is part of keeping memories alive. It invokes strong emotions of love and deep feelings of care and devotion. It is a very loving kind thing, the kind that builds ties and binds us together.
Paying or offering tribute to your loved one is part of walking in this journey, our grief journey. They are part of you, part of your life, completely ingrained into your experiences and your entire being.
These tributes will show how close you were, how your lives were intertwined, and how your life has been imprinted upon by them and you to them. The imprints they left on your heart will forever be there. How do we know? Because we never forget, our grief is a forever present reminder of our love. And so we must continue on.
Every one of us has our own extraordinary characteristics that are unique to only us. Those are the things that we remember. Even now you can open your thoughts and minds and think about all those distinctive qualities that your friends and loved one have that they only have that makes them so special.
As we honor and remember what Elizabeth Peratrovich did for us this day, let us also remember the ones who have gone before us and honor them. A day, a week, a year, a decade – time does not change our feelings for them. Let us continue to remember those who are resting in peace and not let their memories fade as we pray for each other for strength and comfort.