Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966


ANB/ANS honor 3 on Peratrovich Day


Haines ANB and ANS on Sunday honored residents Mike Denker, David Light and the late Brendan Larson as people whose work helped the cause of civil rights in Haines.

The recognition was part of a local celebration of Elizabeth Peratrovich Day.

“The things (the honorees) have done have helped advance understanding between people and cultures,” ANS council woman Marilyn Wilson said this week.

Though civil rights are now in law, there’s still work to be done building understanding and respect between different cultures, she said.

ANB secretary Lee Heinmiller said ANS’s idea to recognize local civil rights advocates captured the essence of Peratrovich Day. The group took what the day represents and brought it to the local level “tying it all together,” he said.

Peratrovich, an Alaska Native, was instrumental in the 1945 passage of the Anti-Discrimination Bill.

Denker said he was “blown away, deeply honored, and humbled” upon learning that he was receiving an award. Denker, operations supervisor at Delta Western and former chair of Haines Energy Task Force, was nominated by Mayor Stephanie Scott. He assisted Scott in crafting an ordinance amending the advisory committee appointment process, including justifying why public discussion is necessary for the process.

“He’s committed to making sure everybody has a voice in government. I was very taken with that. He’s committed to the public process…and equal representation for everybody. He represents that element of civil rights very well,” Scott said.

David Light, who was unable to attend the event, for decades has played a critical role in supporting the ANB Hall, Heinmiller said. In 1967, he and son Harold Light took on construction of the existing ANB hall, when the building was just a basement. Light has been a significant benefactor of the hall, contributing to building projects over the years.

Light, who now lives in Anchorage, has been a strong force for Native rights in the community, Heinmiller said. He served on an ANB committee that helped protect land rights in the Chilkoot area. He has family ties to both local tribes.

Son Mark Light accepted the framed certificate of recognition on his father’s behalf Sunday.

Former Haines School teacher Brendan Larson was committed to teaching people about Alaska Native life and representing culture. Working with an ANB/ANS education committee, he and wife Lauri wrote “The Proud Chilkat,” a textbook about Native culture, in 1977.

Wilson said the book should be used to teach about Tlingit culture in the school, the same way students learn about Romans and Greeks.

Wilson remembered Larson getting elders from Klukwan who knew traditional dance together with students during the raising of the Friendship Pole at the elementary school.

Larson donated $10,000 of his book earnings to build and erect the pole. He died in November.