Article

Assimilation and Acculturation: A Comparison of the Evangelical Strategies of Russian Orthodox and Presbyterian missionaries in Alaska.

Author: Daniel J Hettrick (University of Iowa)

  • Assimilation and Acculturation: A Comparison of the Evangelical Strategies of Russian Orthodox and Presbyterian missionaries in Alaska.

    Article

    Assimilation and Acculturation: A Comparison of the Evangelical Strategies of Russian Orthodox and Presbyterian missionaries in Alaska.

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Abstract

Beginning in 1877, Presbyterian missionaries led by Sheldon Jackson contended with an already established Russian Orthodox mission in Tlingit Southeastern Alaska. Both groups sought to convert the Tlingit to their respective denominations, however, they employed strikingly different strategies informed by their experiences in the American Southwest and Great Plains, and in Siberia respectively. By contrasting the Presbyterian and Russian Orthodox strategies, we see that Presbyterians valued Native assimilation more than the Russian Orthodox missionaries did. Ultimately, the Russian Orthodox missionaries' willingness to accommodate Native Alaskan cultural practices led many Native Alaskans to convert to Russian Orthodoxy and remain Orthodox despite institutional pressure by the American colonial government and Presbyterian missionaries to become Presbyterian and adopt American cultural practices. This conclusion is based on contrasting Presbyterian missionary documents with Orthodox missionary documents—including instructions by missionary leaders, reports on missionary ventures, personal journals, and correspondences. Though the subject of Presbyterian and Russian Orthodox missions has been covered extensively by scholars such as Sergei Kan, such examinations have largely been anthropological in nature and emphasized the perspectives of Native Alaskans to push back against settler-centric narratives in historical and anthropological study. The intention of this paper is not to push back against the advancements made by Kan in this field, rather, it seeks to build off the work of Kan and revisit the perspectives of the missionaries while considering Kan’s scholarship.

Keywords: Alaska, Tlingit, Eastern Orthodoxy, Missionaries, Colonialism, Presbyterianism, Russia

How to Cite:

Hettrick, D. J., (2024) “Assimilation and Acculturation: A Comparison of the Evangelical Strategies of Russian Orthodox and Presbyterian missionaries in Alaska.”, Iowa Historical Review 10(1). doi: https://doi.org/10.17077/2373-1842.31878

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Published on
21 Feb 2024
Peer Reviewed