The interaction of 19th-century Russian missionaries with three indigenous groups, the Chukchi and Altaians in Siberia and the Dena'ina Indians in Alaska, resulted in widely different outcomes. The Chukchi disregarded the missionary message, the Dena'ina embraced Christianity, and the Altaians responded by selectively borrowing from Orthodox religion. Znamenski-in the first work of its kind in English-argues that the relationships between indigenous shamanism and Orthodox missionaries in Siberia and Alaska were essentially a dialogue about spiritual, political, and ideological power, and challenges both the widespread conviction that Christian missionaries always acted as agents of colonial oppression among tribal peoples and the notion that native peoples maintained their pristine traditional cultures despite years of interaction with Western society. Znamenski asserts that Russian missionary policy toward indigenous peoples was, at best, ambivalent and cannot be described as either Russification or a broad tolerance of native cultures. After two broad introductory chapters, he deals with each indigenous people in a separate section, illustrating the ways in which native Siberians and Alaskans acted as active players, welcoming, adopting, rejecting, or reinterpreting elements of Christianity depending upon surrounding circumstances and individual cultural stances.
First published in 1999. Routledge is an imprint of Taylor & Francis, an informa company.
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