Presentation Title

Indigenous Religious Practices and the Influence of the Russian Orthodox Church on the Unangan of Unalaska, Alaska

Location

Guzman 104, Dominican University of California

Start Date

4-17-2019 6:20 PM

Department

Graduate Humanities

Student Type

Graduate

Faculty Mentor(s)

Philip Novak PhD and Chase Clow PhD

Presentation Format

Oral Presentation

Abstract/Description

The Unangan have lived on the island of Unalaska, Alaska for thousands of years, yet little is known about the religious practices of these indigenous people prior to their contact with Russian traders in the 18th century and with the Russian Orthodox Church shortly thereafter. Practices relating to births, marriages, deaths, coming of age, harvest, hunting and fishing ceremonies, and others can be examined to discern the existence of this indigenous religion in contemporary culture. This paper attempts to uncover the origins of Unangan religious culture in an effort to understand how one indigenous religion adapted for survival under the conquest of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Also examined will be the influence a Russian Orthodox missionary priest, Father John Veniaminov (1797-1878)--also known as Saint Innocent, Metropolitan of Moscow--had on the Unangan people and culture of Unalaska, Alaska during his twelve years on the island. This missionary priest learned the Unangan language and was the first person to write it down. It is only recently that the Unangan religion has been practiced, because the Orthodox Church supplanted the indigenous religion, or did it?

The majority of the previous research on this topic is from the perspective of the Orthodox Church as Fr. Veniaminov kept detailed journals and wrote several letters back to Moscow. Other sources are articles written by Unangax (plural of Unangan) such as Kathryn Dyakanoff Seller (1884-1980), a teacher and lecturer who was educated at the Carlisle Indian School. Prior to the arrival of Fr. Veniaminov, primary source material from the Unangan is nonexistent because theirs was an oral language and until the early 1900’s, when Dyakanoff and others began educating the region, firsthand accounts were rare and what does exist are almost exclusively from the perspective of the Unangan who became Orthodox priests.

This topic is of interest to me because I am Unangan. My Great-Grandmother is Kathryn Dyakanoff Seller and her memory is a part of my memory. I am connected to these people who live on an island in the north Pacific Ocean and I wish to learn more about how they understand and practice religion.

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Apr 17th, 6:20 PM

Indigenous Religious Practices and the Influence of the Russian Orthodox Church on the Unangan of Unalaska, Alaska

Guzman 104, Dominican University of California

The Unangan have lived on the island of Unalaska, Alaska for thousands of years, yet little is known about the religious practices of these indigenous people prior to their contact with Russian traders in the 18th century and with the Russian Orthodox Church shortly thereafter. Practices relating to births, marriages, deaths, coming of age, harvest, hunting and fishing ceremonies, and others can be examined to discern the existence of this indigenous religion in contemporary culture. This paper attempts to uncover the origins of Unangan religious culture in an effort to understand how one indigenous religion adapted for survival under the conquest of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Also examined will be the influence a Russian Orthodox missionary priest, Father John Veniaminov (1797-1878)--also known as Saint Innocent, Metropolitan of Moscow--had on the Unangan people and culture of Unalaska, Alaska during his twelve years on the island. This missionary priest learned the Unangan language and was the first person to write it down. It is only recently that the Unangan religion has been practiced, because the Orthodox Church supplanted the indigenous religion, or did it?

The majority of the previous research on this topic is from the perspective of the Orthodox Church as Fr. Veniaminov kept detailed journals and wrote several letters back to Moscow. Other sources are articles written by Unangax (plural of Unangan) such as Kathryn Dyakanoff Seller (1884-1980), a teacher and lecturer who was educated at the Carlisle Indian School. Prior to the arrival of Fr. Veniaminov, primary source material from the Unangan is nonexistent because theirs was an oral language and until the early 1900’s, when Dyakanoff and others began educating the region, firsthand accounts were rare and what does exist are almost exclusively from the perspective of the Unangan who became Orthodox priests.

This topic is of interest to me because I am Unangan. My Great-Grandmother is Kathryn Dyakanoff Seller and her memory is a part of my memory. I am connected to these people who live on an island in the north Pacific Ocean and I wish to learn more about how they understand and practice religion.