Gateway: Living

Alaskan native, Gig Harbor resident writes children’s book on Tlingit people

Roy Peratrovich Jr. holds up his recently-published children’s book, “Little Whale.”
Roy Peratrovich Jr. holds up his recently-published children’s book, “Little Whale.”

Alaskan native Roy Peratrovich Jr. wasn’t planning on writing a book.

About four years ago, he told a friend a brief story about his grandfather.

“My friend said, ‘Write a book — that’s beautiful,’” the 82-year-old Peratrovich Jr. recalled.

Peratrovich Jr.’s children’s book, “Little Whale,” was recently published by the University of Alaska. Peratrovich Jr., a Gig Harbor resident, is of Tlingit descent. The Tlingit are an indigenous people of the southeastern part of Alaska.

The story is about a young Tlingit boy who ventures out in his father’s canoe. The main character, Keet, gets swept up in a sea storm, eventually finding his way to land. Once he arrives on unfamiliar territory, he gets caught up in strife between two Native American tribes.

Peratrovich Jr. grew up in Alaska, and later moved to Washington state.

“The story encouraged me to get into research on our own people,” he said.

Both of Peratrovich Jr.’s parents are prominent Alaskan Native civil rights activists. Peratrovich Jr.’s mother, Elizabeth, worked to end prejudice against Alaskan Natives. Feb. 16, the anniversary of the signing of the Anti-Discrimination Act, was established at the “Annual Elizabeth Peratrovich Day” by the Alaskan legislature.

In the introduction of Peratrovich Jr.’s story, he gives a history of his native people.

“Native people never had written language; it was all oral,” he said.

Peratrovich Jr. worked as an engineer for 43 years designing bridges. Not only did he write the book, but he also did the drawings for the book. He went on to say how he took up 3-D art once more.

“It was kind of exciting and scary. There’s a lot of little steps involved,” said Peratrovich Jr. when describing his initial feelings about finding out his book was going to be published. “You do it because you wanted to do it.”

“Little Whale” has been out for about a month. It was published in the town of Fairbanks, Alaska, and was printed by the University of Chicago Press.

The book is available via the publisher and via