The Transition from Shamanism to Russian Orthodoxy in Alaska

The Transition from Shamanism to Russian Orthodoxy in Alaska

The Transition from Shamanism to Russian Orthodoxy in Alaska

The Transition from Shamanism to Russian Orthodoxy in Alaska

Excerpt

Responding to a twofold question -- how did the transition occur; and what were its implications for the ancient cultures? -- this study places an emphasis upon the transition as an indigenous movement involving a transformation of the ancient. The emphasis may open areas for further discovery, or rediscovery, of Russian Orthodoxy also as a far northern phenomenon by its very nature, be it within societies of hunters or herders of the tundra and taiga; sea-hunters and gatherers of the coasts; agrarian folk from the steppes; or merchants. This emphasis may offer Alaskans and other far northern peoples additional insights into, and a mode of interpretation for, their religious histories; and may, more widely, stimulate an awareness that relationships exist between theology and cultures here.

The primary focus is comprised of the Aleut and Alutiiq peoples who converted in the later eighteenth century, and then maintained this faith themselves within their village structures (the latter premise will be substantiated in the final section of this Introduction). The Aleut people derive mainly from the tip of the Alaska Peninsula and the long arc of the Aleutian Island archipelago, extending for more than 1500 miles from Asia to North America, and comprising a chain of islands, many of these islands volcanic. During the Russian period, the Pribylov Islands in the Bering Sea and the Commander Islands near the Kamchatka Peninsula were also settled by Aleuts and by other peoples assimilated to them.

Distinct from the Aleuts, the Alutiiq people derive from Kodiak Island and its archipelago, a region known collectively as the Kodiak area, situated approximately four hundred miles east . . .

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