I would not have expected that I would have to remind the gentlemen..
February 11, 2020 11:41 PM   Subscribe

Today, February 12th, the US Mint releases the 2020 Native American $1 coin, the latest in a series of dollar coins with Shoshone guide Sacagawea on the obverse (heads side) and a reverse (tails side) design that changes by year. The 2020 design, the first to feature an Alaska Native, honors civil rights pioneer Elizabeth Peratrovich who is relatively little-known outside the state of Alaska.

Born on the Fourth of July, 1911, in Petersburg, Alaska, a small community on Mitkof Island in the Alexander Archipelago, Elizabeth Peratrovich was a member of the Lukaax̱.ádi clan of the Tlingit nation. In 1941 she and her husband Roy Peratrovich launched an effort to fight discrimination against Alaska Natives. Though they successfully enlisted the support of Alaska Territory governor Ernest Gruening, the Peratroviches' efforts initially met with failure when their first proposal for an anti-discrimination law was defeated in the territorial legislature in 1943. Nevertheless, they persisted, tirelessly organizing and advocating for an end to legal discrimination.

In 1945 a second attempt was made. After territorial senator Allen Shattuck of Juneau sneeringly asked
"Who are these people, barely out of savagery, who want to associate with us whites, with 5,000 years of recorded civilization behind us?"
Elizabeth Peratrovich stood during public comment and replied:
"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."
before proceeding to speak movingly about the discrimination she and others had faced. Her testimony is credited as having been decisive. The 1945 Anti-Discrimination Act was passed by the territorial legislature and signed into law by Governor Gruening on February 16th. It was the first anti-discrimination law in the nation, passed 14 years before Alaska even became a state and 19 years before the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Peratrovich died of cancer in 1958 at the age of 47 [NYT obituary] but she is remembered in Alaska every February, when the anniversary of the signing of the 1945 Anti-Discrimination Act is celebrated as Elizabeth Peratrovich Day.
posted by Nerd of the North (16 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
 
Saturday will be the 75th anniversary of the signing of the 1945 Anti-Discrimination Act.
posted by Nerd of the North at 11:45 PM on February 11 [4 favorites]


Very cool! I didn't know her story before; thank you for posting it here.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:55 PM on February 11 [3 favorites]


Stunning answer to a despicable, racist question. Reminds me of the video we saw this week. "Why didn't you stay in Mexico, then?" "Because this is the greatest country in the world."

It really does seem like a whole lot of work to be a racist. You have to fight all these people seeking their rights, and you have to be mad about that stuff all the time.
posted by ivanthenotsoterrible at 5:38 AM on February 12 [3 favorites]


It really does seem like a whole lot of work to be a racist. You have to fight all these people seeking their rights, and you have to be mad about that stuff all the time.

Never underestimate the power of inertia, cognitive dissonance, and laziness. I've seen my kids put way more effort into persuading me how not making their bed is the better option when just making it would have been, in comparison, a far faster and easier task.

Racists are like that in a way. They don't want to get their own house [read: mental constructs] in order so they'll shout a lot about how it's just wrong to feel any other way.

I applaud this effort. I've always felt a mixture of pride and ick regarding the Sacagawea dollar as it pertains to native persons' representation on US currency. I try not to think about it too much and just take it as a nice, if potentially flawed on a deeper level than most people think, sort of gesture.
posted by RolandOfEld at 5:59 AM on February 12 [5 favorites]


Oh Mr Shattuck. With that last name, it's quite likely that 5000 years ago your ancestors were covered in wode and living in turf roundhouses. And that still makes them more civilized than you.
posted by 1adam12 at 7:12 AM on February 12


It really does seem like a whole lot of work to be a racist. You have to fight all these people seeking their rights, and you have to be mad about that stuff all the time.

It helps if you remember that your average virulent racist is pissed off and indignant all the time. Directing it at immigrants/indigenous people/whatever-else-minority saves them from having to turn that lens inward. Meanwhile, couching civil rights as zero-sum ("if we treat THOSE people as human, it must mean we're treating EVERYONE ELSE as less human, because there's only so much humanity to go around") is a natural side-effect of thinking that everyone else is as horrible as you are.
posted by Mayor West at 7:15 AM on February 12


Why don't we stop printing paper $1 bills? It's a waste.
posted by zzazazz at 7:17 AM on February 12 [4 favorites]


Powerful legislators protecting the cotton mills and paper-printing plants in their districts is why. Ted Kennedy (Crane Paper) and Trent Lott (cotton farms, used to make the linen paper) crippled the dollar coin(s) for decades.
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:27 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


Thank you for this post. I've wanted to do a post about her since I learned about her earlier this year, but I got super busy and it just never happened. This is great!
posted by primalux at 8:40 AM on February 12


This is neat but why are progressive heroes always consigned to a denomination that no one actually uses? I can't remember the last time I saw a dollar coin in the wild and the few times I've tried to use one, the cashier acted dubious that it was a real coin.
posted by octothorpe at 10:16 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


I've always felt a mixture of pride and ick regarding the Sacagawea dollar as it pertains to native persons' representation on US currency. I try not to think about it too much and just take it as a nice, if potentially flawed on a deeper level than most people think, sort of gesture.
I think that's the only way to take it, yes. Some of the themes of prior coins in the series are pretty cool and others are kinda cringe-inducing but in my opinion even the misguided ones are better than the historical erasure that is the normal lot of Native American issues.
posted by Nerd of the North at 10:37 AM on February 12


This is neat but why are progressive heroes always consigned to a denomination that no one actually uses? I can't remember the last time I saw a dollar coin in the wild and the few times I've tried to use one, the cashier acted dubious that it was a real coin.
There's so much exhausting shit to keep track of that it's hard to remember every single thing but it's still worth reminding ourselves that without the flagrant racist pandering of our current administration we would have been circulating $20 bills with Harriet Tubman on them this year.
posted by Nerd of the North at 10:43 AM on February 12 [8 favorites]


Why don't we stop printing paper $1 bills? It's a waste.

Paper money is also inaccessible to people who are blind or have low vision, because it's all the same size and same edging. We really need to upgrade, but... inertia, plus the business interests of everyone who has made a machine that takes paper money.
posted by bile and syntax at 10:52 AM on February 12


i was wondering how these coins are viewed by native communities - it seems strange to commemorate treaties on coins as a way of 'honoring' native peoples when almost all of those treaties were broken and not worth the paper they were written on
posted by kokaku at 11:07 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


Thanks for making this post. I don't teach history, but my Alaska middle school students are all finishing their National History Day projects in one of their other classes this week. The theme this year is "Breaking Barriers" and a couple of my students came in yesterday before school all excited to show me the mini-documentary they had just finished about Peratrovich, so she has been extra on my mind this week.
posted by charmedimsure at 4:10 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


I used to work for the company that makes the inks in US currency. The front of US bills is Currency Aqua Black; the back is Currency Aqua Green (hence, "greenbacks").
posted by kirkaracha at 10:55 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


« Older Why a rotary cellphone?   |   What color is your name? Newer »


You are not currently logged in. Log in or create a new account to post comments.