Elizabeth Peratrovich Is First Alaska Native to Grace U.S. Currency

By N. Jamiyla Chisholm Oct 07, 2019

On Saturday (October 5), it was revealed that Elizabeth Peratrovich (Kaaxgal.aat) (1911-1958) will grace the reverse-side design for the 2020 Native American $1 Coin. This makes her the first Native Alaskan to appear on currency created by the United States Mint, according to KTVA.

The nation’s first anti-discrimination law, Alaska’s Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945, was signed nearly 20 years before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the passage was largely due to Peratrovich’s advocacy. Through her efforts, businesses could no longer post signs that read “No Natives Allowed,” “We cater to White trade only,” “No Dogs, No Natives” and “Meals at all hours—All White help.” The coin reads “Elizabeth Peratrovich and Alaska’s Anti-Discrimination Law” and it features a symbol of the Tlingit Raven moiety, of which Peratrovich was a member.


The coin’s design was revealed at the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Alaska Native Sisterhood Convention at Alaska Pacific University; Peratrovich served as leader of the Sisterhood. “This coin will be a lasting tribute to Elizabeth Peratrovich and her relentless efforts to tear down the wall of discrimination against Alaskan Natives,” Mint chief administrative officer Patrick Hernandez said in a statement. “We will proudly produce this coin that honors her bravery and determination.”

According to the Mint, “The Native American $1 Coin Program is authorized by the Public Law 110-82 to recognize the important contributions made by Native American tribes and individual Native Americans to the history and development of the United States. The public law mandates that a new reverse design, with an image emblematic of one important Native American or Native American contribution, be issued at a rate of once a year.”

In addition to Peratrovich’s honor, KTVA reported that on October 5, Governor Michael Dunleavy signed House Bill 126, which officially establishes the month of November as Alaska Native Heritage Month. “The history of Alaska's native peoples is the history of Alaska,” Dunleavy told KTVA. “Without it, Alaska’s history is not complete. Eleven distinct cultures encompass every part of this great state.”