Alaska Life

Alaskans commemorate Elizabeth Peratrovich Day

Feb. 16 is when Alaska commemorates Elizabeth Peratrovich Day, and celebrations of the Tlingit civil rights leader’s legacy are happening across the state.

Peratrovich was born Elizabeth Wanamaker in Petersburg on July 4, 1911. At times in her life, she faced discrimination in voting, housing and more, and through her leadership of the Alaska Native Sisterhood she advocated for civil rights legislation in Juneau with her husband, Roy Peratrovich, whom she married in 1931. She died of cancer on Dec. 1, 1958, after years of advocacy work to secure and expand the rights of Alaska Natives.

Elizabeth Peratrovich championed Alaska’s Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945 and spoke before the Alaska Territorial Senate in favor of the bill, saying in part: “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 compelling testimony was a defining moment in the lead-up to the passage of the bill, which guaranteed equal access in restaurants, hotels and other establishments nearly two decades before Congress approved the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Since the late 1980s, Elizabeth Peratrovich Day has been celebrated in Alaska on Feb. 16, the day in 1945 when the Anti-Discrimination Act was signed into law by Gov. Ernest H. Gruening.

“Happy Elizabeth Peratrovich Day! Today, we celebrate the remarkable legacy of Kaaxgal.aat who fiercely advocated for justice, equality and civil rights,” the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska posted on social media Friday. “Kaaxgal.aat’s tireless efforts fighting systemic racism and discrimination paved the way for the broader civil rights movement in the United States.”

In 2023, Elizabeth Peratrovich Day was celebrated nationally for the first time. She’s been celebrated in public art, on a $1 coin, even in a Google Doodle.

In Anchorage and virtually

Events celebrating Peratrovich’s legacy are scheduled for Friday:


Virtual Alaska Native Brother & Sisterhood Grand Camp celebration: 6 to 8 p.m., Facebook Live

The Alaska Native Brother & Sisterhood Grand Camp is hosting a virtual celebration in honor of Elizabeth Peratrovich Day with the theme “Our Voice, Our Vote, Our Way of Life.” Featuring speakers, performances and more.

Commemoration at UAA: 1 to 2 p.m., ANSEP Building at 2929 Spirit Drive

Memry Dahl, the University of Alaska’s chief human resources officer, will speak about Peratrovich and her impact, with UA and UAA leaders presenting. Light refreshments will be provided.

(Also: Later Friday, in honor of Elizabeth Peratrovich Day, a panel on “Killers of the Flower Moon” is scheduled for 5 to 7:30 p.m. at the UAA/APU Consortium Library or via Zoom.)

Celebration and documentary screening: 6 to 7:30 p.m., Cafecito Bonito at 6310 DeBarr Road

This event featuring a screening of “For the Rights of All: Ending Jim Crow in Alaska,” a documentary about Peratrovich’s life and achievements, is hosted by The Alaska Center, Get Out the Native Vote, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, Planned Parenthood Alaska and Alaska Voter Hub. Food and drinks are available for purchase.