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Two Holidays

October 18, 2015 Here in the 49th state it is Alaska Day, commemorating Secretary of State William Seward's purchase of the territory of Alaska from Russia. Schools and state offices are closed. Columbus Day, last week's federal holiday, is not a state holiday in Alaska. Furthermore, this year, our governor proclaimed by Executive Order that the date most states call Columbus Day will instead be known in Alaska as "Indigenous Peoples' Day". He said, "Alaska is built upon the homelands and communities of the Indigenous Peoples of this region, without whom the building of the state would not be possible.” Sixteen percent of Alaskans have indigenous heritage--including several members of my own family. The governor in his order further wrote, "...the State opposes systematic racism toward Indigenous Peoples of Alaska or any Alaskans of any origin and promotes policies and practices that reflect the experiences of Indigenous Peoples, ensure greater access and opportunity, and honor our nation’s indigenous roots, history.” I am grateful for his words. I vividly recall my junior high gym teacher, who was Alaska Native and grew up in my home town, telling us about signs on downtown stores in her youth reading "No Natives Allowed." She wasn't that much older than we were--and her courage in telling us what hurt her still has stayed with me for decades. Thanks, Governor Bill Walker and Lt. Governor Byron Mallott!
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