Library and PIA introduce Tlingit culture program on Elizabeth Peratrovich Day
Courtesy of Alaska women’s Hall of fame
Tlingit leader Elizabeth Peratrovich worked tirelessly to bring equality to Alaska. She raised awareness, rallied support, and lobbied the legislature to pass Alaska’s Anti-Discrimination Act in 1945, the first such law in the nation. As Grand Camp President of the Alaska Native Sisterhood, Elizabeth provided the crucial testimony that brought about passage of the Anti-Discrimination bill. When asked by the Senate, “Will the equal rights bill eliminate discrimination in Alaska?” Elizabeth answered: “Have you eliminated larceny or murder by passing a law against it? 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.” Her speech split the opposition and allowed the bill to pass.
In 1945, the Alaska state legislature signed the Anti-Discrimination Act into law, and began an era of improved racial relations in the state.
Civil rights leader Elizabeth Peratrovich was instrumental in this bill’s passage and her work is celebrated across the state on February 16, Elizabeth Peratrovich Day, the anniversary of the signing of the Anti-Discrimination Act.
Festivities in Petersburg on February 16 will include a parade through downtown at 4 pm and an event at the Seaside House featuring a viewing of the film, For the Rights of All: Ending Jim Crow in Alaska, with guest speaker Jackie Martin.
Like Elizabeth Peratrovich, Jackie Martin served as Grand President of the Alaska Native Sisterhood.
“We were looking for a strong female Tlingit/Haida woman leader to take part in the celebration. She was our first pick,” said Connie Bisson of the Petersburg Indian Association.
Also on February 16, the Petersburg Public Library and Petersburg Indian Association are introducing a new collaborative project called Many Voices, One Community.
This project was funded by a prestigious two-year grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, in the amount of around $150,000.
The funding will allow the library to present programs and classes on topics such as preparation of traditional foods and medicines, subsistence methods, Northwest Coast art, Tlingit language and history.
Through the library’s Listening Project oral histories will be recorded.
“We’re having a weekly program on the radio where a word will be taught in both Tlingit and Norwegian,” said Jessica Ieremia the program coordinator at the library.
“Traditionally Tlingit is not a written language. It’s all passed down through stories and dance so that’s where we're trying to deal with the fact that elders are dying and we need to keep that information passing along. We want to take what’s been traditionally done and put it in a contemporary context so kids can be engaged in learning about it,” said Ieremia.
The program kicks off with a carving and print making class for teens on Friday, in which basic Tlingit designs will be carved on lino-block stamps and used to create one of a kind t-shirts.
Throughout the year the classes will follow the Tlingit lunar calendar, which serves as a guide for sustainable food harvesting.
A cooking event is being planned for March that will work with herring eggs and seaweed and harvesting wild rice.
These all-ages courses will be available to everyone in town.
“We’re a really diverse community and through that diversity we’ll find that we have a common ground. The main thing is to bring the entire community together and to understand different people,” said Ieremia.