The almost one hundred years of Russian colonial occupation of Alaska resulted in the Russian-American Company's (RAC) controlling only a small territory with a small population and operating a generally unsuccessful economic enterprise. Contemporary Russian writers were critical of RAC administrative decisions, suggesting far more could have been done to further the interests of Russia in Alaska. Less attention has been given to the agentive actions of the Tlingit, Ahtna, Alutiiq, and Dena'ina in controlling the Russian occupiers and minimizing European hegemony. Three aspects of the Dena'ina response to occupation played a significant role in maintaining their indigenous sovereignty. First, the 1797 Battle of Kenai expelled Russian occupiers from Dena'ina territory, resulting in only a small population of Russians for the duration of Russian America, until 1867. Second, the Dena'ina contextualized the turmoil not as the oppressive actions of invaders but as shaman-induced intracultural turmoil, thereby shaping the narrative in their own historical terms and negating the power of the occupier to frame history. Third, after the 1836–40 smallpox epidemic, many Dena'ina were baptized as Orthodox; however, Orthodoxy was highly indigenized, with many concepts filtered through the lens of Dena'ina culture, thus limiting religion as a tool of “governmentality.”
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Research Article| July 01 2013
Dena'ina Resistance to Russian Hegemony, Late Eighteenth and Ninetenth Centuries: Cook Inlet, Alaska
Ethnohistory (2013) 60 (3): 485–504.
Alan Boraas, Aaron Leggett; Dena'ina Resistance to Russian Hegemony, Late Eighteenth and Ninetenth Centuries: Cook Inlet, Alaska. Ethnohistory 1 July 2013; 60 (3): 485–504. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00141801-2140722
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