ANCHORAGE, Alaska (TheBlaze/AP) — Organizers of an annual charity event in an Alaska town will stop calling it a “slavery auction” after an NAACP complaint.
The event in Sitka involves people bidding on a few hours of a volunteer’s time. It’s part of the town’s Alaska Day festivities, which commemorate the state’s transfer of ownership from Russia to the U.S.
Facebook photos from the group’s previous events show participants’ hands bound behind their backs as they were “auctioned” off to the highest bidder. The event in 2009 raised $5,000 for the Sitka Cancer Survivors Support group.
This year’s fundraiser happened Sunday. Anchorage NAACP President Wanda Laws says calling it a “slavery auction” is offensive and inappropriate.
“The connotation of buying and selling people against their will into slavery — that’s nothing to glorify,” Laws told the Alaska Dispatch News. “I’d like them to change the name. I’m not asking them to cancel the event.”
Auction organizer Rita Ledbetter says officials are changing the name to the “Alaska Day Auction.” Ledbetter added that she didn’t even know what the NAACP was before the organization’s complaint.
“Tell them to stick their nose back in their own business and leave us alone,” Ledbetter initially responded to objections.
Alaska Days chairman Ted Allio (AL’-ee’oo) says it’s been blown out of proportion. Allio noted Russians enslaved Natives living in Sitka before the U.S. purchased Alaska in 1887. But he says, “You don’t hear them yelling” about the name.
Sitka Tribe of Alaska general manager Lawrence SpottedBird says the old name wasn’t OK and people need to be more respectful.