February 17, 2022

Vice Chairman Murkowski Delivers Floor Speech on Alaska Native Civil Rights Leader

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (SCIA), spoke on the Senate floor on February 16, 2022 to recognize Elizabeth Peratrovich and her legacy as an Alaska Native civil rights leader.


Senator Lisa Murkowski delivering her floor speech on Elizabeth Peratrovich on February 16, 2022

Excerpts from the Vice Chairman’s floor speech:


“Mr.  President, I’ve come to the Senate floor to recognize and honor Elizabeth Peratrovich, who was a relentless champion for civil rights for all Alaskans. Every year on February 16, the State of Alaska observes Elizabeth Peratrovich Day.  Communities, schools, and cultural centers across our state hold activities to honor this remarkable Alaska Native leader,” said Vice Chairman Murkowski. “Today, as we celebrate back home, I want to share her story with the United States Senate, because it is a legacy of seeking and realizing a more inclusive society and a more representative democracy.”


“After moving to Juneau in 1941, Elizabeth and her husband, Roy Peratrovich, encountered discrimination against Alaska Natives that paralleled Jim Crow practices in the South, which only strengthened their commitment and resolve. Through their work with the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Alaska Native Sisterhood, Elizabeth and Roy began advocating for passage of an anti-discrimination bill in the Territorial legislature. They pointed out that Alaska Natives were paying taxes for a public school system that excluded their children. They pointed out that Alaska Native men were fighting in World War II, but upon their return were denied rights that others enjoyed. Those fundamental discriminations—and many others—are what drove their pursuit of equal rights for all people in Alaska. A few years later, Alaska Governor Ernest Gruening, went on to sign the state’s Anti-Discrimination Act—the nation’s first—into law on February 6, 1945, almost two decades before the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.”


“We sometimes think of Elizabeth Peratrovich as part of our history, but she, her husband, and the impact they had on Alaska and the way they strengthened our democracy is still our current history. We honor Elizabeth Peratrovich’s legacy of standing up for what is right. She is an inspiration because she set the example that when you see something wrong, you speak out and do something about it. She also provided a great example for why we need to listen to all perspectives and voices—especially those who have been left out or left behind, often intentionally,” continued Vice Chairman Murkowski.


“Elizabeth Peratrovich Day is also a timely reminder for those of us who serve in the United States Senate. We have an obligation to respond to the calls from our constituents who are seeking protection, including through electoral reforms and improvements for voter access.”


“It may be not be easy to take on some of these complicated issues, especially when partisanship is pulling members back to their corners. But like we did with the infrastructure bill, and are doing with the Violence Against Women Act, we need to follow a process that allows us to get something done as opposed to simply sending messages.”


“As Alaska celebrates Elizabeth Peratrovich, I hope the Senate will look to her legacy for inspiration as we seek unity, and follow her example of treating our fellow citizens with respect.  We have too much at stake to operate in any other, lesser manner.”


Click here to watch Senator Murkowski’s full floor speech on Elizabeth Peratrovich.