Spiritual and Secular Transculturation in Russian America, 1821-1867

Sean Atkins

Abstract


The focus of this essay is to reveal the secular and spiritual transculturation that shaped the relationship between the indigenous Aleut and Alutiiq with colonial Russian America from the time of the second charter of the Russian-America Company (RAC) in 1821 until the end of the colony in 1867. This period was marked by a systematic attempt on the part of the Russian imperial elite to codify (and classify) the offspring and cultural identity of mixed Russian-Native parentage (creole). The syncretism of Orthodoxy and indigenous spirituality, however, simultaneously challenged any attempt by the centre to “Russify” or “Christianize” the local inhabitants. The result of this latter era in the history of Russian America was an alternative model for Empire that eschewed the acculturation/assimilation paradigms inherent in Native-Newcomer relations associated with contemporary European settler societies.

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