News Briefs – November 2019

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The U.S. Mint unveiled the design of a coin in honor of Native American rights leader Elizabeth Peratrovich. The coin features a portrait of the late civil rights leader – above words that highlight her legacy: “Anti-discrimination Law of 1945.”

2020 coin features Native Elizabeth Peratrovich

ANCHORAGE, AK (AP) – A young Alaska Native woman left an impression on Alaska’s territorial Senate in 1945, delivering a speech that led to the passage of the nation’s first anti-discrimination law. Now, the late Elizabeth Peratrovich is leaving her impression on a $1 coin.

The U.S. Mint unveiled the design of the coin Oct. 5 at the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Alaska Native Sisterhood convention in Anchorage. The 2020 Native American coin will go on sale early next year.

The coin will feature a portrait of the late civil rights leader – composed and graceful, her hair in tight rolls – above words that highlight her legacy: “Anti-discrimination Law of 1945.” An image of a raven, depicting her Tlingit lineage, soars near her.

“The coin will be a lasting tribute to Elizabeth Peratrovich and her relentless efforts to tear down the wall of discrimination against Alaska Natives,” said Patrick Hernandez, acting deputy director of the U.S. Mint.

The coin will teach the world about Peratrovich’s brave acts and “what Alaska was like” and wants to be in the future, said Gov. Mike Dunleavy, speaking after the coin’s unveiling.
Peratrovich and her husband, Roy Peratrovich, championed the Alaska Anti-Discrimination Act depicted on the coin.

During the World War II years in Juneau, they were appalled by the “White Trade Only” signs they saw outside public establishments, said Jackie Pata, a Tlingit and former executive director of National Congress of American Indians.

Leaders of the Native Brotherhood and Sisterhood, the Peratrovich couple traveled to Alaska communities, building support against discrimination, Pata said. They sought help from from territorial Gov. Ernest Gruening, who signed the bill into law on Feb. 16, now Elizabeth Peratrovich day.

Native actor Wes Studi wins Oscar Award

Hollywood, CA (AP) – Actor Wes Studi (Cherokee) made history on October 27th at the 11th annual Governors Awards when he became the first ever Native American to receive an Academy Award. “I am proud to be here tonight as the first Indigenous Native American to receive an Academy Award,”

The Oklahoma-native trained at the American Indian Theater Company and has appeared in more than 30 films, including “Dances with Wolves” (1990), “The Last of the Mohicans” (1992), “Geronimo: An American Legend” (1993), “Heat” (1995) and “Avatar” (2009).
Canada-born Cree musician Buffy Sainte-Marie won an Oscar in 1982 as co-writer for best song, “Up Where We Belong.”

Prairie Island welcomes homelands legislation

Welch, MN (AP) – A bipartisan bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives paves the way for the Prairie Island Indian Community to provide a safe and stable homeland for its people.

H.R.4752, the Prairie Island Indian Community Land Claim Settlement Act, essentially compensates the tribe for the flooding of its lands by the federal government. It authorizes the acquisition of a 1,244-acre site, further away from a nuclear power plant located next door to the existing reservation.

“We have been trying for years to solve the issues that are the direct result of federal actions: the flooding of our lands and the storage of hazardous nuclear waste next to our homes,” President Shelley Buck said in a press release. “This legislation addresses our health and safety concerns and offers us a safer future free from these dangerous threats.”

The bill does not contain any restrictions on the 1,244-acre site that would be placed in trust. The property – known as Elk Run – would be considered “settlement lands,” according to the text of H.R.4752.

The tribe plans to use the site for housing and other types of development.
“Adding the Elk Run property to our reservation land base has deep meaning to our people,” Buck said in a press release from the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council, a state body of which she serves as vice chair. “Most importantly, it provides us with a safe alternative homeland, something that is crucial to righting the historical and current wrongs committed against Prairie Island.”

The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources. A hearing has not been scheduled.