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Hallingstad, Amy (1901-1973) | Sealaska Heritage Institute Archives

Name: Hallingstad, Amy (1901-1973)


Historical Note:

Amy Booth Hallingstad (1901-1973) was born in Haines, Alaska, the daughter of Frank Booth Sr. (1889-1964) and Sally Jackson (1885-1943). Amy was 4/4 Tlingit Indian and of the Eagle Moiety, Tsaagweidí Clan. She is often remembered as a civil rights activist and leader in the Alaska Native Sisterhood, and was referred to by some as the First Lady for the First People.

In Amy’s youth she moved to Sitka to attend the Sheldon Jackson College, and then moved to Petersburg, Alaska. During the 1920s in Petersburg Amy married Norwegian-born Casper Hallingstad Sr. (1901-1980) and they later had six children together; daughters Mary, Gloria, and Gertrude (1932-1990), and sons Casper, Jonas, and Leonard. At Petersburg Amy and her husband worked as commercial fishermen and raised cattle.

During the early 1930s, as Amy’s children began to attend school in Petersburg, Amy became angry that the Native children in Petersburg were forced to attend a segregated school. Since Alaska Natives had to pay taxes that went toward the public school system, Amy was able to force the closure of the Native school in Petersburg and soon Alaska Native children were able to attend the public school in Petersburg. During this time Amy became very active in the Alaska Native Sisterhood (ANS), serving in various leadership roles within the Petersburg ANS Camp 16, and later serving as Grand President from 1947-49 and 1953-56. She was a supporter of the lands claim movement as early as 1937.

During this time Amy also made it a practice to forcedly remove signs from businesses in Southeast Alaska that contained discriminatory language, such as “No Natives Allowed.” Amy was also an organizer of boycotts against businesses that discriminated against Alaska Natives, or preferred to hire non-Natives. Newspaper articles speak of her efforts of enforcing a boycott of the Petersburg movie theater, which had segregated seating. The boycott continued until the segregated seating practice was eliminated.

As Grand President of ANS she also made strong efforts to pressure businesses, such as canneries, that sought to employ non-Natives to change their policies and hire locally. She influenced reforms that were enacted at canneries in Hood Bay, Excursion Inlet, Pillar Bay, and Chatham. She fought to improve medical care to Alaska Natives. She also regularly corresponded and met with state politicians about the important political issues of the day. With her contemporary, the celebrated Elizabeth Peratrovich, they both worked towards ensuring civil rights were guaranteed to Alaska Natives.

Remaining in Petersburg her whole life, Amy raised a family, served her community, and sought to improve conditions in Alaska for all people. She passed away in Petersburg at age 72 on April 8, 1973.

Sources:

Obituary, Petersburg Press, 12 and 19 April 1973.

Lori Thomson, “Two Women with One Mission: Elizabeth Peratrovich and Amy Hallingstad Remember in Fight for Natives’ Rights,” Petersburg Press, undated clipping in collection.

         

Materials in manuscript collection.






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