Ketchikan Charter School held a virtual assembly on Tuesday in recognition of Elizabeth Peratrovich Day.
The Tlingit civil rights leader and her work toward equal rights for Alaska Native individuals has been celebrated every Feb. 16 since 1988, when the Alaska Legislature designated the day in her honor.
Peratrovich, who was born in Petersburg in 1911 and graduated from Ketchikan High School, worked along with her husband, Roy Peratrovich, to secure civil rights for Alaska Natives. In 1945, she advocated for equal treatment and opportunities for Alaska Natives in front of the Alaska Territorial Legislature, leading to the passage of the Anti-Discrimination Law of 1945.
The KCS assembly was held via Zoom on Tuesday morning, with Delores Churchill and Gloria Burns participating as guest speakers.
"I hope you realize how we are just honored to have these guest speakers today," KCS Principal Kayla Livingston said at the beginning of the assembly.
The assembly then opened with presentations from sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders about Peratrovich's life and accomplishments — featuring information learned from the book "Fighter in Velvet Gloves."
The students also all participated in the singing of a peace song, gifted to KCS by Terri Burr.
After the students finished their presentations, Delores Churchill, the 91-year-old Haida master weaver whose work is housed in museums nationwide,spoke to the accomplishments of Elizabeth Peratrovich on Tuesday.
Churchill said that the activist would be "really amazed at what has happened" since the passing of the Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945.
She also said that the support Peratrovich received from the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Alaska Native Sisterhood was vital to her success.
"I feel that there's not enough emphasis on the support that she got to get where she got to where she gave that speech," Churchill said.
"When somebody gets ahead, you never get ahead alone," she added. "You need all the help of everyone around you."
Ketchikan Indian Community President Gloria Burns spoke after Churchill.
She remarked that it hasn't been very long since Peratrovich's appearance before the Legislature.
"This is just really, in the time of human beings, it's a very short drop in the bucket," Burns said.
She noted that now, "we think about all the things we are taking for granted here in the moment," such as the ability to go to school with students and teachers of all backgrounds, own a home in any neighborhood, or marry someone of a different race.
Burns said that Peratrovich's work also was important for future women's rights leaders.
"Elizabeth got up and (had) this conversation in a time where the rest of the world wasn't used to seeing a woman leader," Burns said.
But it isn't the same for Alaska Native women.
"They (women) had a unique role in the clan system where they (clan members) lifted them up, and they were used to being powerhouses in that respect," Burns noted.
She continued on to say that Peratrovich "spoke up and was doing all these things when you had to have a lot of courage and you had to have a lot of support of other people."
Burns told the students who were listening via Zoom that, one day, they also could advocate for important issues.
Burns also said she appreciated the students' peace song.
"They were so respectful of this powerful, ancient song," Burns commented.
In response to the students' song, Burns finished the assembly with a traditional Haida song that is used to greet a new day.
"So when the day is fresh and there are only possibilities in it, this is when you sing this song," she explained, before noting that in Haida culture, songs are song an odd number of times.