Alaska groups celebrate Juneteenth, Indigenous Peoples’ Day becoming city holidays

Alaska groups celebrate Juneteenth, Indigenous Peoples’ Day becoming city holidays
Published: Feb. 27, 2023 at 7:03 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church celebrated Sunday with a Black History Month program.

It came just days after the Anchorage Assembly voted unanimously to institute Juneteenth and Indigenous Peoples’ Day as municipal holidays for the city.

“It’s important to always recognize ... Juneteenth and Indigenous Peoples’ Day, because of our history,” Pastor Undra Parker said. “It’s been a long time coming for us.”

The Assembly voted at Tuesday night’s meeting to unanimously pass the ordinance to add the two holidays to the list of paid holidays for municipal employees.

“Holidays give us this space to really celebrate who we are as a community, and the richness and diversity, and different types of folks and backgrounds and contributions both historical and current,” Assembly member Austin Quinn-Davidson said.

Assembly Vice Chair Chris Constant said that African American History is American History and it was past time for Anchorage and the country to find ways to honor the day.

“(It’s) probably one of the best things I’ve had the opportunity to do serving on the Assembly is providing in the code and in our processes, recognition of two very important holidays for large segments of our population,” Constant said.

Juneteenth traces its roots back to June 19, 1865, when the last slaves were freed after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect. The recognition of these holidays has been monumental for many people in the Anchorage community.

“It is elation and celebration,” Constant said. “The reality is still setting in for people that for the first time since 1865, in Anchorage, this celebration is real, and for all the indigenous people in Alaska, Anchorage finally celebrates that day as well.”

Parker says there are people within their culture that work in the government who have never been able to take the day off to celebrate and still be paid.

“This is a wonderful time for them to be able to honor and celebrate their heritage, but also understand that they can do this in the comfort of knowing that my employees know me and my culture and give me that time off with pay,” Parker said.

Municipal workers in Anchorage can now count on having both Juneteenth and Indigenous Peoples’ Day off.

Those days are June 19 and October 9, 2023, respectively. While Juneteenth is annually celebrated on June 19, Indigenous Peoples’ Day is observed each year on the second Monday in October.