Q. Can you name 5 famous people from Alaska? -Marie
A. Sure. I’m certain there are more than the ones I can think of, right off, but here are some:
ELIZABETH PERATROVICH, a Tlingit Indian, was born in Petersburg, Alaska in 1911. She died in 1958 of a long battle with cancer. During her rather short life, she was largely responsible for the Anti-Discrimination Act in Alaska. In 1945 she appeared before the territorial legislature and engaged a pompous senator (Allan Shattuck) in a debate. He came out very much the worse for wear! He importantly addressed the others by saying, “who are these people, barely out of savagery, who want to associate with us whites, who have 5,000 years of civilization behind us?”
Elizabeth bravely stood up and said, “I would not have expected that I, who am barely out of savagery, would have to remind gentlemen with 5,000 years of civilization behind them, of our Bill of Rights! Have you eliminated larceny or murder by passing a law against it? No law will eliminate crime, but at least you legislators can assert to the world that you recognize the evils of the present situation, and speak your intent to help us overcome discrimination.” She received a rousing ovation and the Anti Discrimination Law was passed. Today, Alaskans recognize February 16, the anniversary of the Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945 as ‘Elizabeth Peratrovich Day.’
SHELDON JACKSON lived between 1834 and 1907. He was a Presbyterian minister who started over 100 churches across Wisconsin, Minnesota, New Mexico, Arizona and Alaska. He came to Alaska in 1877.
He spent a lot of time in Washington D. C. on behalf of the territory of Alaska and its people. He was instrumental in getting our state’s district courts set up. He did a lot for education here also. He was appointed General Agent for Education in 1885.
He realized that Alaska was too vast for only one denomination here, so he invited other denominations to come, sort of dividing up the territory in what was called a Comity Plan.
In 1891 he introduced domestic reindeer into Alaska, probably preventing a wide starvation among the Eskimos that year.
I would say he was definitely one minister who wasn’t ‘so heavenly minded he was no earthly good’. He did a lot for our state, and today, Sheldon Jackson College, and a nice museum, stand at Sitka in his memory.
TOMMY MOE – born in 1970, and a local boy, from Palmer, Alaska. Wasilla boasts a street called Tommy Moe Drive. Tommy won the downhill gold and the super-G silver at the 1994 Winter Olympics.
Tommy was also the first U. S. man to win 2 Olympic Alpine Medals in one year.
ROSIE FLETCHER – You might have seen her in this year’s Winter Olympics. She definitely is an Alaskan. In fact, Rosie is an Alaskan Native and the first woman from Alaska to earn an Olympic medal. She won a bronze medal in the women’s giant slalom at the Torino, Italy games. I think you’ll see more of her in the future.
JACK LONDON – is considered by many to be America’s finest author. Born Jan. 12, 1876 in California, he only lived for 40 years, but he packed a whole lot of living into those 40 years. He was born illegimately, reared in poverty, but made much of his life. Biographies of Jack London make fascinating reading. Although he spent a lot of time in the Canadian Yukon, Alaska claims him also since he spent different periods of time here and really loved Alaska! Probably his two most famous works are The Call of the Wild and White Fang.
Talking to you about Jack London, reminds me that I want to reread his wonderful books. It has been enough years since I read them that I can thoroughly enjoy them again. Have you ever read them? Let me know if I can help you with anything further, Marie. -BJ