Artifact of the Month
Artifact of the Month: November 2022

Advocating for Indigenous Civil Rights

Founded in 1912, the Alaska Native Brotherhood (ANB) is the oldest known Indigenous civil rights organization in the world. Its counterpart for women, the Alaska Native Sisterhood (ANS), formed shortly afterwards in 1915. This was a time well before statehood when Alaska Natives were not United States citizens; they were unable to vote, barred from certain establishments, and forced assimilation had threatened cultural identity. ANB and ANS camps started up around the state with popular annual conventions that brought members from different tribes together, strengthening intertribal connections and growing their political power.

Both ANB and ANS fought against discrimination and affected social change. Early advocacy efforts were realized in 1924 when Congress passed federal legislation granting U.S. citizenship to all American Indians. Within a decade, continuing advocacy led Congress to amend the Indian Reorganization Act to include Alaska. The Act reversed federal policies favoring assimilation and laid the groundwork for U.S. policies recognizing tribal self-determination. In the decades that followed the organizations worked to secure education and voting rights, along with workmen's compensation and health benefits. In 1971, land ownership rights were cemented with the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Today ANB and ANS continue to work towards equity for Alaska Natives.

This month's featured artifact is a blue sash with the emblem of the Alaska Native Sisterhood. Renowned Haida master weaver Selina Peratrovich (1890-1984) wore this sash to meetings of the ANS. Peratrovich was a lifelong member serving as President, Treasurer, and Secretary over her tenure. The sash is currently on display at the Totem Heritage Center.

Ketchikan Museums: Tongass Historical Society Collection, THS
Click to Enlarge
Sash with the emblem of the Alaska Native SisterhoodSash with the emblem of the Alaska Native Sisterhood
Sash - inside and frontSash - inside and front
Sash - back of topSash - back of top
Sash - back of top and insideSash - back of top and inside
Sash - insideSash - inside
Sash - emblem detailSash - emblem detail
Sash with CM rulerSash with CM ruler