Erik C. Young

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS)



First Advisor

Daniel L. Brunner

Second Advisor

George A. Gray


The goal of this research thesis is to explore the activities of the Protestant and Russian Orthodox missions to Alaska and the ways in which they engaged the Native American peoples. It examines the geographic, religious, sociaL and economic distinctives of the respective missionary ideologies. Although the Orthodox and Protestant missions labored at different time periods and under different conditions, their work overlapped and their efforts were informed by the anthropological and theological traditions from which they derived. As a vehicle for equitable comparison, this thesis briefly unpacks the lives of the Presbyterian minister Edward Marsden, a Tsirnshian Indian educated in American Universities, and Father Iakov Netsvetov, a Russian/ Aleut Creole sent to study at a Russian Orthodox Seminary. These exemplars of Christian ministry represent the best that could be accomplished by both the Protestants and the Orthodox. Protestant successes in native education notwithstanding, their success in affirming the native cultures left much to be desired. This thesis concludes that the Russian Orthodox missionaries operated out of a more affirming anthropology than that of the Protestant missionaries. Eastern Orthodoxy affirms the Image of God in all peoples.