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Alaska holiday honors Elizabeth Peratrovich

Elizabeth Peratrovich

This year, the National Women’s History Project has chosen Elizabeth Peratrovich as one of 15 women to be honored in March under the theme “Nevertheless she persisted.”

Since 1988, Alaska has celebrated Elizabeth Peratrovich Day as a state holiday. Who is she?

Elizabeth, born on July 4, 1911, in Petersburg, Alaska, was a native of the Lukaax adi clan of the Tlingit nation. Adopted as a young child by Andrew and Mary Wanamaker of the Tlingit nation, she became Elizabeth Wanamaker.

In 1931, she married Roy Peratrovich. When they moved to Juneau, Alaska, they experienced discrimination against native indigenous people whose ancestors had lived there for thousands of years. Not only did they face housing discrimination, but there were signs in front of businesses advertised, “We Cater to White Trade Only,” “No Natives Allowed,” and “No Dogs or Indians Allowed.”

Elizabeth and her husband, at their own expense, traveled the state for years, working courageously and tirelessly for civil rights of Alaska’s natives.

Elizabeth spoke before the Territorial Senate in 1945 regarding the Anti-discrimination Act. The bill had failed to pass two years before in 1943.

This time, however, Elizabeth’s efforts and testimony were decisive in the passage of The Anti-discrimination Bill on Feb. 16, 1945, the first comprehensive anti-discrimination bill in the United States.

This was nearly 20 years before the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 that ended segregation in public places and banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

We know that there is still such tragic and racial injustice being done to our native sisters and brothers. Learn about a significant project, sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, called Renaming Native Truth: A Project to Dispel America’s Myths and Misperceptions here.

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Sister Donna Butler

Sister Donna Butler has been a Sister of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods for more than 60 years. Sister Donna has served in elementary education, parish ministry, diocesan social justice, as well as the Congregation’s liturgy office, archives department and social justice outreach. She also administered as the director of the Providence Volunteer Ministry. Sister Donna currently volunteers in outreach with Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College students.

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