Alaska ‘slave auction’ fundraiser to be renamed

  • By Mark Thiessen
  • Monday, October 19, 2015 11:18pm
  • News

ANCHORAGE — Organizers of an annual Alaska charity event said Monday they will stop calling it a “slave auction” after the NAACP complained.

The event in the town of Sitka involves people bidding in an auction on volunteers’ time, with the winning bidders putting the volunteers to work doing odd jobs, like mowing lawns or cleaning gutters. It’s part of Sitka’s Alaska Day festivities, which commemorate the state’s transfer of ownership from Russia to the U.S.

The president of the Anchorage chapter of the NAACP issued a news release drawing attention to the “slavery” name ahead of this year’s auction, which took place Sunday. The Alaska Dispatch News then did a story about it — further spreading the word — and the auction name was widely condemned online.

“All at once, I don’t know what happened,” said Rita Ledbetter, a bartender at the Pioneer Bar, which hosts the annual event.

Anchorage NAACP President Wanda Laws told The Associated Press she wanted to shine a spotlight on the auction name because it was “extremely inflammatory and insensitive.”

“You do not glorify the selling of another human being. You just don’t do that,” she said. “It’s horrific.”

Twenty to 25 people volunteered to have their labor sold at the auction organized by Sitka’s Pioneer Bar. Sunday’s event raised $3,000 for the local volunteer fire department, Ledbetter said. Previous beneficiaries included Special Olympics and charities fighting multiple sclerosis and breast cancer.

Ledbetter said the auction has been held for 31 years and has had no problems other than a phone complaint during each of the past two years. She also noted no one contacted her directly about the name.

“It’s a local, local thing, and I don’t know why it’s such a big deal,” Ledbetter said by telephone Monday.

“Why I wasn’t called by the NAACP and say, ‘Hey,’ instead of slamming us for a word that just means squat now. I mean, how long has that been? 150? Almost 200 years? It’s like, ‘C’mon ,’” Ledbetter said.

Still, she confirmed the auction will change its name to the “Alaska Day Auction” going forward.

Alaska Day chairman Ted Allio said the matter has been blown out of proportion. Allio noted Russians enslaved Natives living in Sitka before the U.S. purchased Alaska in 1867. But he says, “You don’t hear them yelling” about the name.

But Lawrence SpottedBird, general manager of the Sitka Tribe of Alaska, said calling the event a slavery auction wasn’t OK and Allio “overstepped on his comments.”

The event is well-intentioned but affected the black community, SpottedBird said.

“I stand with them,” he said. “There should be basically an apology for using that term.”

Sitka Fire Chief Dave Miller said the auction money will be put into the training fund for volunteers. He said after Law’s comments and all the online complaints, he asked the auctioneer not to use the world “slavery” during the actual auction.

More in News

Kenai Fire Marshal Jeremy Hamilton is seen by one of Kenai Fire Department’s Tower trucks on Friday, Sept. 30, 2022 at Kenai Fire Department in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Get up, get out and get safe’

Kids taught about fire safety as part of prevention effort

Bob Bird, left, chairman of the Alaskan Independence Party, and former Lt. Gov. Loren Leman make the case in favor of a state constitutional convention during a debate in Anchorage broadcast Thursday by Alaska Public Media. (Screenshot from Alaska Public Media’s YouTube channel)
Constitutional convention debate gets heated

Abortion, PFD factor into forum.

Carol Freas (right) helps a voter fill out absentee election materials in Kenai City Hall ahead of the Oct. 4 municipal election on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Absentee voting already underway

Absentee in-person voting has been made available across the borough

Graphic by Ashlyn O’Hara
Graphic by Ashlyn O’Hara
What’s on the ballot: Reapportionment, new field house, school bond

Voters will decide on ballot measures that address schools, public safety and legislative bodies

Cars line up ahead of dismissal at Mountain View Elementary School on Thursday, September 29, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. A bond package up for consideration by Kenai Peninsula Borough voters on Oct. 4 would fund improvements to the school’s traffic flow. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Critical needs’: Parking lot problems

Lack of space for pickup and drop-offs creates traffic jam at elementary school

Soldotna Elementary School Principal Dr. Austin Stevenson points out elements of the school building on Friday, Sept. 30, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Critical needs’: Aging school on the brink

Renovations are cost prohibitive at Soldotna Elementary

Rep. Mary Peltola, an Alaska Democrat, delivers a speech on the U.S. House floor before Thursday’s vote approving her first bill, establishing an Office of Food Security in the Department of Veterans Affairs. It passed the House by a 376-49 vote, although its fate in the Senate is undetermined. (Screenshot from official U.S. House video)
Poll: Peltola’s a popular pol

Food for vets bill passes House, pollster says she is “the most popular figure in Alaska right now.”

A parking sign awaits the new executive director of the Alaska Permanent Fund at its Juneau headquarters, Three finalists will be interviewed for the job during a public meeting Monday by the fund’s board of trustees, who are expected to deliberate and announce the new director immediately afterward. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Interviews, selection of new Permanent Fund CEO set for Monday

Three finalists seeking to manage $73.7B fund to appear before trustees at public meeting in Juneau

Principal Sarge Truesdell looks at cracked siding outside of Soldotna High School on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. The siding is one of several projects in a bond package Kenai Peninsula voters will consider during the Oct. 4 municipal election. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Critical needs’: Split siding at SoHi

The damage has been given patchwork treatment over the years

Most Read