Date of Award

Winter 3-8-2019

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of arts (BA)


Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Julie Nicoletta

Second Advisor

Matthew O'Leary


This paper applies letters, journals, history interviews, government-company contracts, international treaties, theological works, and images to examine the convergence of Russian Orthodox Christianity and Alaskan Indigenous shamanism cultures to explicate the harmonizing of an Indigenous multicultural Christian faith in nineteenth-century Russian Alaska. Central to this examination is the evaluation of effects of Orthodox Christian missiology on native Alaskans and the Indigenous religio-cultural response to Russian missionaries. Not merely a historical overview of contact between natives and missionaries in Russian Alaska, this paper harmonizes the commonality of cosmology between native Alaskan shamanism and Orthodox Christianity. It analyzes the impacts of comparatively culturally-tolerant Russian evangelism on pre-Christian native beliefs and practices and contrasts with subsequent Western Christian evangelism in Alaska. Analysis of Saint Maximus the Confessor’s theanthropic cosmology is woven into the process of Russian missionary activity. The significance of Saint Maximus as the underlying principle in guiding religio-cultural points of contact between Orthodoxy and native cultures in Alaska serves as an example of cultural tolerance in Christian missions that displays neither religious syncretism nor cultural supplantation by a dominant culture. This is a principle that is all too often ignored by scholars in the West most likely because of their unfamiliarity with Orthodox theanthropic cosmology, which this paper seeks to correct in order to precipitate future academic discussion of European missions among Indigenous cultures.