May 8, 2012

Aluet prayers in Orthodox missions

"When you do not pray for us, who will then help us? Therfore, we earnestly continue to ask the intercessions of the Mother of God."
-- English translation of a fragment of an Aluet-language prayer written in Russian characters in a financial report, possibly circa 1872, at a Russian Orthodox Mission on what is now St. Paul Island, Alaska (pdf).

All Saints of North America Orthodox Church has undertaken the project of transcribing and printing the records and surviving texts of Orthodox efforts to evangelize in Alaska -- religious texts in Aleut, Alutiiq, Tlingit, and Yup'ik.They have recently published their 60th document online. They have also collected mp3s of liturgical hymns in the indigenous languages of Alaska, and made them available free of their site.

This is an important historical project and deserves attention. Few of the documents have been translated into widely-known scholarly languages yet, which will limit their use for the time being, but this church has made it possible for scholars to expand the knowledge of American religion, and hopefully eventually allow for a fuller, more complex account of the Eastern Orthodox in America.