Story last updated at 2/12/2014 - 4:56 pm
JUNEAU - All SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium clinics and administrative offices will be closed Monday, Feb. 17, to honor the achievements of Alaska Native civil rights leader Elizabeth Wanamaker Peratrovich.
While the outpatient clinics will be closed on this day, SEARHC will have on-call staff available to provide emergency care at those clinics that offer emergency services. Regular staff will be working at S'áxt' Hít Mount Edgecumbe Hospital to take care of hospitalized patients.
Peratrovich's impassioned testimony before the Alaska Territorial Legislature in 1945 led to the passage of an antidiscrimination bill eliminating segregation faced by Alaska Natives. On Feb. 16, 1945, Territorial Governor Ernest Gruening signed the measure into law, marking the first anti-discrimination bill introduced and passed in Alaska, nearly 20 years before the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. Before the bill was passed, Natives were treated as second-class citizens, had difficulty finding housing, regularly saw signs banning Native entry to public facilities and were barred from many Alaska businesses unwilling to serve them.
On Feb. 6, 1988, the Alaska Legislature established Feb. 16 as Elizabeth Peratrovich Day.
The anniversary date of the bill's signing in 1945 now honors her "for her courageous, unceasing efforts to eliminate discrimination and bring about equal rights in Alaska." It is a day set aside so Alaskans can pause to remember the former Grand Camp President of the Alaska Native Sisterhood and honor her efforts to preserve equality and justice for all Alaskans regardless of race, creed and ethnic background.
Elizabeth Peratrovich Day is a special day for SEARHC's Alaska Native patients and staff. It is important that SEARHC honors her accomplishments and legacy.