This week we celebrated the life and accomplishments of Elizabeth Peratrovich, a leader in equality and justice not only in Alaska but nationwide. Through the efforts of Peratrovich and others, the legislature passed The Alaska Equal Rights Act of 1945, which was the first state or territorial anti-discrimination law in the United States. As we look back to our nation's long and continuing struggle for equal rights, the efforts of Elizabeth Peratrovich mark a milestone and a beacon of hope.
On Elizabeth Peratrovich Day (February 16th - the day the Alaska Equal Rights Act was signed into law), we held a really great community event. Over 80 Alaskans came together online to watch "For the Rights of All: Ending Jim Crow in Alaska," a film that documents the struggles of Indigenous Alaskans to end racial discrimination laws in Alaska. At that event, we took time to draft public comments in support of HB 123/SB 108, the Tribal Recognition Bill currently in the Alaska House of Representatives, and heard from Waahlaal Giidaak Blake, a sponsor of Tribal Recognition Ballot Measure.
As we discussed in our email last week, the Tribal Recognition Bill is legislation that will require the State of Alaska to recognize Alaska's federally recognized tribes. The federal government has a special and unique relationship with tribes that the State would formally acknowledge. This bill will codify in Alaska law that federally recognized tribes are sovereign governments. It does not change any legal relationship. State recognition of Tribes will honor the first peoples of this land and the historical, economic, and cultural value that they bring to the state. The Tribal Recognition Bill is substantially similar to a ballot initiative that will move forward should the legislature fail to pass the bill.
Tribal Recognition has a lot of bipartisan support. It is in its final committee of referral, The Senate State Affairs Committee (a further committee referral was removed earlier this week, so after it passes State Affairs, it goes to the Senate Floor for a vote). The voice of Alaskans in support of this bill is critical. Tribal Recognition is an act of respect and dignity between our state and Alaska Native Tribes. It is time to raise your voice in support of this act. Let your legislator know that you support the swift passage of the Tribal Recognition Bill and that you support formal recognition of Alaska Native Tribes.
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