Woodworker Zach LaPerriere stands beside the yellow cedar bench honoring Elizabeth Peratrovich, in March of 2021. Advocates are urging the City of Sitka to expedite its installation in front of Harrigan Centennial Hall. (KCAW/Rose)

February 16 marks Elizabeth Peratrovich Day, and several celebratory events are planned in Sitka, including a parade down Lincoln Street. But one plan to honor the Tlingit civil rights leader is taking longer than some hoped.  

At its regular meeting on February 8, the Sitka Assembly heard from a large group of residents, hoping to expedite a plan to install a yellow cedar bench in downtown Sitka to commemorate Peratrovich’s legacy. 

Around 15 people spoke in favor of moving forward with the project, including longstanding former Alaska Native Brotherhood President Harriet Miyasato Moreno Beleal.

“The right, honorable decision is to place the Elizabeth Peratrovich bench in front of the centennial building for everyone to see, especially the future generations to come,” she said. “It is a fitting legacy for you to make and be remembered for.”

Other speakers called on the assembly to convene a special meeting before Elizabeth Peratrovich Day –  the anniversary of the day in 1945 when the Alaska Territorial Legislature adopted the nation’s first anti-discrimination act. 

Local woodworker Zach LaPerriere carved the bench early last year from a yellow cedar tree that fell during a windstorm. It was commissioned by the “Benches and Birds” group which aims to create a series of benches and bird sculptures throughout Sitka as cultural and historical markers.

The Assembly met with the “Benches and Birds” group last September to discuss the possibility of installing three benches, including the bench honoring Elizabeth Pertratrovich, in front of Harrigan Centennial Hall. The group plans for the benches to replace the statue of Alexander Baranov, which was moved to the Sitka History Museum, after a group of Sitkans called for its removal in 2020.

The Assembly will discuss the placement of the bench at its next regular meeting on February 22.