Under normal circumstances, if you were planning to cruise The Inside Passage with a stop in Juneau, Alaska, I would tell you, “ Boy do I have the book for you, and a walking tour of Downtown to go with it! Unfortunately, a second cruise season has just been mostly cancelled, and nearly everything I’d suggest seeing is closed to the public anyway. But! All is not lost! Let me instead guide you on a DIY VIRTUAL “walking tour” of Downtown Juneau to explore the story of Elizabeth Peratrovich.
Peratrovich, an Alaska Native and tireless civil rights advocate, famously stood up in the gallery box of the Alaska Territorial Legislature, and gave a short speech which swayed the vote to pass the first anti-descrimination bill 20 years before the rest of the United States would have any such bill.
You may recognize Elizabeth Peratrovich’s likeness from the new $1 USD coins minted in 2020. Though, as the coin was minted just as the world shut down, and I don’t know how many of us still use coins… you may not have seen one of these yet. So if you’re not familiar with her, you now will be by the time one of those $1 coins finds its way into your wallet.
Fighter in Velvet Gloves by Annie Boochever, with the help of Peratraovich’s son, Roy Jr.
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Boochever has written a biography of Elizabeth Peratrovich in a YA format. The remarkable life story of this civil rights icon is an easy, quick read, but packed with lots of fascinating information. For example, Peratrovich was well into young adulthood before she learned she was adopted! And her activist activities required lots of travel to remote Alaskan villages by small plane, and as a mother, she still managed to balance childcare. Her son, Roy Jr., provided photographs and conversation recollections of his mother which make the story feel less historical and more contemporary.
On a personal note, I’m excited to tell you about this book because years ago, before she was an author, Ms. Boochever was my fifth grade music teacher!
Virtual Walking Tour
The stops on the tour include:
- Alaska State Capitol Building
- Terry Miller Legislative Office Building (Former School of Roy Jr.)
- Juneau City Museum
- Alaska State Library, Archives, and Museum
- Sealaska Heritage Institute
- Evergreen Cemetery
- Sacred Grounds Cafe in the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall
They can be found on the map below. Using Street View, you can “walk” Juneau’s downtown streets.
Alaska State Capitol Building
“I would not have expected that I, who am barely out of ‘savagery,’ would have to remind gentlemen with five thousand years of recorded civilization behind them, of our Bill of Rights.”
A bust of Elizabeth Peratrovich, created by her artist son Roy Jr., sits in a case just inside the entrance of the State Capitol Building. This is where we’ll start the tour. After clicking on the link above which will put you on the street outside the building, click on the yellow and blue arrow button on the doors and you will be whisked inside where you will see the bust.
Read more about the Elizabeth Peratrovich bust and other works on Roy Jr.’s Ravensworks Art Studio website.
From here you can explore more of the building, or if you would like to continue, choose the 2nd Floor from the drop-down menu in the left-hand corner. Click around the floor until you find the double doors with “House of Representatives” written above them. Click on the eye to go in the room. At the back of the chamber, click on the eye in the gallery box to the left of the doors. This is the Elizabeth Peratrovich Gallery where she stood up and admonished the Territorial Legislators.
Terry Miller Legislative Office Building (Former School of Roy Jr.)
The building behind the Capitol Building (or above it on Google Maps) was formerly the 5th St. School where Elizabeth Peratrovich’s son Roy Jr. was the first Alaska Native child to go to school with the rest of the neighborhood children. You’ll be able to see a photo of the outside of the building by clicking on the blue marker on the Google Map. If you do this walk in person, children will be able to stop and play in the playground which is still next to the school.
Juneau City Museum
While one can expect to find records of Peratrovich’s civil rights work in State or Federal archives, you should make a brief stop in the Juneau City Museum’s online archive to see a handmade doll of Elizabeth’s likeness in an outfit like the one she wore for the signing of the Anti-Discrimination Bill passed on February 8, 1945.
Alaska State Library, Archives & Museum
To compare the City Museum doll’s outfit to the one actually worn by Elizabeth Peratrovich, make your next stop in the photo collections of the Alaska State Historical Collections Library. If you search for photos of Elizabeth Peratrovich in Alaska’s Digital Archives, the 2nd photo in the results will show you Elizabeth standing behind the Governor at the Anti-Discrimination Bill signing.
Sealaska Heritage Institute
To learn more about the local Alaska Native culture that Elizabeth devoted her life to, take the Sealaska Heritage Virtual Gallery Tour. You can walk around the HSI War and Peace gallery room either with your computer, or it can also be viewed using a VR device.
Finally, if you’d like to pay your respects at the grave of Elizabeth Peratrovich and her husband, Roy, you can find out where they’re buried by using the map of Juneau’s Evergreen Cemetery. The graves can be found near Irwin St. in the General Section.
Sacred Grounds Cafe in the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall Building
Lastly, when/if you are able to do this walk in person, I suggest stopping at the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall. Not because there’s anything particular to see here. This building mostly contains just a conference hall available for event rental. However, the Sacred Grounds Cafe in this building is worth a stop for both a drink and breakfast or lunch. I especially like their Fridays Fish and Chips option!
I hope when tourism resumes, you’ll be able to visit Juneau in person and connect with its local indigenous culture by doing this walk in person!
Are there books about local Indigenous leaders and culture in your hometown that you would recommend? What sights should we visit after reading the book? Let’s discuss this and more in the comments below!
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