Tlingit Culture and Russian Orthodox Christianity through Two Centuries
The Russian-American Company began operations in southeastern Alaska in the 1790s. Against a description of Tlingit culture at the time of the Russians’ arrival, Kan examines Russian Orthodox theology, ritual practice, and missionary methods, and the Tlingit response to them. An uneasy symbiosis characterized the early era of the Russian-American Company, when the trading relationship outweighed any spiritual or social rapprochement.
A second, major focus of Kan’s study is the Tlingit experience with American colonial domination. He attributes a sudden revival of Tlingit interest in Orthodoxy in the 1880s as their attempt to maintain independence in the face of concerted efforts by the newcomers (and especially Presbyterian missionaries) to Americanize them.
Memory Eternal shows the colonial encounter to be both a power struggle and a dialogue between different systems of meaning. It portrays Native Alaskans not as helpless victims but as historical agents who attempted to adjust to the changing reality of their social world without abandoning fundamental principles of their precolonial sociocultural order or their strong sense of self-respect.
About the Author
"“[Provides] a vivid picture of the engagements between the actors who together contributed to transforming Tlingit culture: the different Tlingit families, the Russian traders, Orthodox and Presbyterian missionaries, Russian and U.S. settlers, and Tlingit women and men."—American Ethnologist
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