Last week, Governor Bill Walker and Lt. Governor Byron Mallot nominated Alaska Native civil rights leader Elizabeth Peratrovich to be put on the new ten dollar bill. Peratrovich, who was Tlingit, has roots in Petersburg and is known as an outspoken activist who helped get Alaska’s Anti-Discrimination Act passed in 1945. At the same time, another Petersburg woman, Amy Hallingstad, was fighting the same cause.
In the early 1930s in Petersburg, Native children attended segregated schools. Hallingstad, who was also Tlingit, fought the segregation and eventually the students were combined. Her oldest son, Casper Hallingstad, Jr. was the first Alaska Native student in the Petersburg public school.
Hallingstad’s granddaughter, Nicole Hallingstad, was raised in Petersburg and says that when her grandmother was alive, there were signs that read, “No Natives” and “No Indians Allowed”. Nicole says her grandmother would physically tear them down.
“There were signs that actually said, “No Indians or Dogs Allowed” that would just be, you know, torn off of these store fronts,” Hallingstad said. “In the 40s, 50s, and 60s she was tremendously active.”
Nicole learned about those days through her grandmother and also through her Master’s Degree in History from Berkley. She says although many things have improved for Alaska Natives, some have not.
“They’ve been fighting essentially for a hundred years for Alaska Native rights to our land to access to our cultural foods, to protection and perpetuation of our civil rights so this battle never really ends,” she said.
Whether Elizabeth Peratrovich will be chosen for the ten dollar bill might not be known for a long time. The U.S. Treasury Department plans to have the ten dollar bill redesign but 2020 and is looking to replace the face of Alexander Hamilton with a woman. They plan to spend months gathering input from the public about who they should choose.