Dena'ina History Russian Orthodox Influence  
EARLY RUSSIAN ORTHODOX INFLUENCE
ON THE DENA’INA
Knik, Tyonek, Kustatan, Susitna, Kenai, Seldovia, Ninilchik
Seldovia, Kangallen, Napamiut, Nukachaogmiiut, Aleksandrovsk,
Chikak, Mulchatna River, Kichik, Iliamna Village

2016
coleen_mielke@hotmail.com


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Knik, Alaska, is located in Upper Cook Inlet.  Technically, in early records, Knik was not a single settlement, but a group of villages or seasonal camps.  A Russian missionary named Hegumen Nikolai (1853) recorded five  seasonal Knik village camps that he ministered to.  The Dena’ina of this area lived fairly nomadic lives, moving from hunting camp to fishing camp as the seasons changed.

Generally, Russian Orthodox missionaries visited the Cook Inlet area twice a year to teach the faith, perform confession, communion, baptize, perform last rites and funerals.  The first trip  was a summer trip to Tyonek,  Kustatan, the five seasonal Knik camps and two seasonal Susitna camps before the fish run.  The second trip took place in March and they went to Seldovia, Aleksandrovsk and Ninilchik and Kenai. According to sources I’ve read, Dena’ina means “people”.  Some people call it Tanaina, but that is an English form of the word Dena’ina.  

1883
Twenty nine children, under the age of 8 died of the flu in Kenai.  The next year, according to Russian Priest Hieromonk Nikita,  the epidemic continued, killing children and adults in other villages.  Pregnant women were very hard hit by this flu and  100% of the women who had the flu when they gave birth, died soon after.

1893
Old Knik (present day Knik town) had only 3 residences and 1 trading post in 1893.  The rest of the residents  were scattered within six miles of the village.  Father Bortnovskii (1880’s) recorded that the villagers of Tyonek only stayed in the village for 4 months out of the year (fishing and hunting the other 8 months).

1885
Russian Priest, Hieromonk Nikita, visited Tyonek. He tried to record births at the village but had the following to say: “Given the uncooperative and cunning nature of the Kenaitze, this is a hard and depressing procedure”.  (Note from me: perhaps this might explain why some researchers cannot find their families birth records within the Russian Orthodox records (?).

July 19, 1885
The Priest baptized an adult Mednovtsy (Copper River) Native “who was converted from paganism and received the name of Nikolai after his godfather.

Vladimir Stafeev, a Russian, who first worked as an agent for the RAC at St. Nicholas Redoubt (Kenai) in the 1860's, married a Dena'ina woman who was the daughter of a toion. He worked at St. Nicholas Redoubt and Tyonek as an agent for the ACC trading post from 1884-1888.  In 1887, in Tyonek, he traded with three Mednovtsy Natives; two of them were Bychanishta and Kechigiugunuglin. He baptized the men and renamed them Pavel and Karp, two Dena'ina from Tyonek acted as godparents (Pavel Shitachka and Karp Nukhdichugin).

1888
White man named Aleksandr Ryan comes to live in the Kenai area.

1889
Russian Priest, Nikolai Mitropol’skii, said it was not easy communicating with the Mednovtsy people. To do that, his Russian language had to be translated into the Knik tongue, then someone who could speak both Knik and Mednovtsy had to translate it from the Knik tongue to the Mednovtsy tongue.  Of course, all replies had to go through the two translators in reverse as well.  That summer, many Mednovtsy came to Knik and the Priest married the couples as they came. He estimated there were 500 Mednovtsy who lived in the Copper River area.

1888
Tyonek has 130 residents, including children.

1891
Three white men, living in Knik, hanged a Mednovtsy Native because he had killed a white man five years before. Russian Priest, Nikolai Mitropol’skii, stated that one of the white men went by the name of Miller.

1891
The flu is epidemic at Ninilchik, people are so ill, that there isn’t sufficient help to  bury the bodies.

1894
Russian Priest, Aleksandr Iaroshevich, writes that there are few people living in Knik. He said that most people who were considered Knik residents, actually lived in various locations scattered in a radius of 6 miles around Knik.  Knik village was located up river, 12 miles from it’s chapel.

ACC agent at Knik in winter of 1894 was A. Krison. Another man named George Palmer was also in Knik that winter (listed as a miner). On 12/19/1894  Father Aleksandr Iaroshevich wrote in his hournal that George Palmer took Pelagaia Chanilkhiga, a local Kenaitze girl, as his concubine.

1895
Gold was discovered on the Kenai Peninsula and thousands of miners came to the area.  The villages of Tyonek and Knik became major supply points for these miners. Russian-American Co. records state that 150 Indians and 40 white people lived at Knik in 1906.  Ten years later, there were 500 white people.

1897
The Dena’ina moved their village from Old Knik (present day Knik) to New Knik.  They disassembled their St. Nicholas chapel and took it to New Knik (Eklutna) and reassembled it.  Russian Priest Bortnovskii visited the reassembled chapel at New Knik in 1897.

1900
The possibility of the Natives of Knik interacting with the Mednovtsy people (Copper River) is explained in a 1900 entry by Father Ioann Bortnovskii.  He says that eight Knik Natives visited the Mednovtsy, leaving Knik on September 1st and traveled 55 days (with all of their possessions on their backs) and returned to Knik on May 1st. He also says that on July 1st of 1900,  he travels to Susitna and stops at a summer fish camp built by Knik Natives.  He learns that many are ill but even more are starving because the salmon have not yet reached Susitna. He  says that the dogs are also starving and they look like “moving skeletons”.  Once at Susitna, he says he  learns how the “Susitna women and only the Susitna women” are skillful at handling small boats (as skillful as the men).  There are 3 stores in the area , 2 in the village of Susitna and 1 at lower Susitna village.  The agent at the Susitna village A. C. Co. store wants to marry a Knik Kenaitze woman with whom he has lived with for a long time and has many children.  Two Susitna men abducted a Copper River Native girl.

July 6, 1900
Russian Priest Bortnovskii married Arthur McConahay and Mapoy, a Knik Kenaitze girl who had lived with him for 7 years and has 4 children with him.  McConahay, a local trade agent, contributed to building the new chapel at Susitna, both in money and advise. He also gave free food to the people who were building the chapel in 1902.

In Susitna, Kenai, Kasilof, Knik and Seldovia the Alaska Commercial Co. is in the process of quitting business.  Private stores are springing up.

1902
April 25, 1902 Priest Bortnovskii baptized a baby named Pavel, the infant son of a white man who is married to a Kenaitze woman at Seldovia.
April 29, 1902  Seldovia, gave last rights to a dieing man named Ivan Iakovlev
June 20, 1902 Priest Bortnovskii mentions visiting what he calls the “1st Knik” which was a summer nomadic camp and that only 2 Native families live near the Knik chapel.
June 24, 1902 Bortnovskii married a local Kenaitze man at  Tyonek (who had “illicitly” lived with a white man named Harry Hicks).  The Priest performed a funeral for a Tyonek man named Peter who died that day.
June 29, 1902 Bortnovskii performed last rights for a Kenaitze woman named Olga who was very sick in her tent.

1905
December 15, 1905
KANGALLEN VILLAGE: Born Feodor, son of Kenaitze Native Pavel Konstantineovich and wife Anna.

1906:
May 12, 1906
NAPAMIUT VILLAGE: Grigorii, infant son of Vasilii Ashipiak died.
May 14, 1905
VICINITY OF NAPAMIUT VILLAGE: Baptized Anisiia Tagian infant daughter of Makarii Chiliklanak and lawful wife Anna. Baby was born May 3, 1906.  Godparent was Natalia, wife of Vasilii Tagnigakh of Napamiut Village. Irina, daughter of Feodosia Iaganin was born in April of 1906.  Her Godparent was  Mariia Chimgak of the Napamiut Village.
May 18, 1906
MOUTH OF STONEY RIVER: Marva, infant daughter of Epifanii and his lawful wife Marfa Ivanov.  The Godparent was  Mariia the wife of Sergie Andreanov.
May 24, 1906
KANGALLEN VILLAGE: Baptism of Ekaterina  daughter of American Grigorii Mikhailovich Hobson and his lawful wife Tatiana Konstantinovna .  The Godmother was Mariia Vladimirovna, wife of a Kenaitze named Ivan Konstantinov. Baptism of Feodor, son of Kiril Tokhteion and his wife Agafiia.  Godfather was Kirill I’akovlevich.  Baptised, Elizaveta, daughter of Pavel Konstantinov and wife Anna.  Godmother was a Kenaitze maiden named Agafiia Ivanovna.  Baptised Maria, daughter of Vasilii Ivanovich and Evlalia.  Godmother was a maiden named Alexandra Ivanovna Kal’tita.
May 29, 1906
NUKACHAOGMIIUT VILLAGE: Baptised Agnia, daughter of Native named Lazar Klimentov Achimati and wife Evgeniia.  The baby was born mid-April.  Godparent was Pelageia Ivanov, wife of Kiril Klimentov.

1907
The Russian Orthodox church started the St. Nicholas Temperance Society at Seldovia.  The Natives could take an oath saying they wouldn’t drink for a certain amount of time.  This list is important because it gives us names we wouldn’t normally have access to:

January 21, 1907
Ekaterina Mishakoff took an oath for the rest of her life.
Paros Danilova and Anna Shangai took an oath for 1 year.
February 19, 1907
Iosif Z. Oskolkoff quit his membership because his oath had expired.
February 26, 1907
Afanasii Almanakh arranged a supper for the society members.
March 4, 1907
Iakov Oskolkoff took an oath for 1 year.
Agripina Bakhov took an oath for the rest of her life
Petr Bakhov  took an oath for 1 year
Vasilii A. Demidov took an oath for 1 year
March 11, 1907
Matrena Ltultish took an oath for the rest of her life.
Aleksandr Abakhchi renewed his oath.
Maria Abakhchi took an oath for the rest of her life.
Tatiana Knukhuutil took an oath for 2 years
Nikolai Mishakoff took an oath for 2 years
Lukia Mamalia  took an oath for 2 years
Tatiana Viadro took an oath for 2 years
Nikolai Soloviev took an oath for 2 years
Engenii Man took an oath for 2 years.
Anastasiia Baktuit took an oath for 1 year.
Anna Sorokovikov took an oath for 1 year
Akilina Kiiu took an oath for 1 year
Feodor Chulgin took an oath for 1 year

1907
January 29, 1907 Vlasii Anakhupak died in Aleksandrovsk Village.
April 2, 1907  KENAI
Joseph Tugubik quit the membership because their oaths had expired
Afanasii Almanakh quit the membership because their oaths had expired
Aleksei Mednovsky  quit the membership because their oaths had expired
April 8, 1907
Akakii Kanitak died in Seldovia.
Nikolai Tishdilusion took an oath for 1 year.
Peter Vedro took an oath for 2 years
Aleksei Knikov took an oath for 2 years
Alexandra Knikov took an oath for 2 years
Nadezhda Mednovsky took an oath for 2 years
Simeon Chickalusion took an oath for 3 years
Anna Bakhov took an oath for the rest of her life.
April 18, 1907
Anna Ivanov took an oath for 1 year.
April 19, 1907
Aleksandr D. Daryn took an oath for 2 years
Stepan Knushdul took an oath for 2 years
April 21, 1907
Iosif Z. Oskolkoff took an oath for 10 years.
Afanasii Almanakh took an oath for 1 year.
Maxim Knukhuutil took an oath for 3 years.
Grigorii P. Oskolkoff took an oath for 5 years
Feodor Kvasnikov took an oath for 1 year.
April 22, 1907 Aleksei Mednovsky renewed his oath for 1 year.
April 23, 1907 Philip Wilson took an oath for 1 year.
April 30, 1907
Pavel Kalifornskii took an oath for 3 years.
Nikonor Ltultish  took an oath for 3 years.
May 10, 1907
Mikhail Balashov took oath for 5 years
Anisiia Balashov (his wife)  took an oath for 5 years
Timofei Balashov took an oath for 5 years
Aleksei Berestov took an oath for 5 years
May 13, 1907
Evgeniia Agina took an oath for life.
 Irina Mamchak took an oath for life.
 Grigorii Anakhukak took an oath for life.
 Evgeniia Mamchak took an oath for life.
Marfa Mamchak took an oath for life.
Ljubov Abapak  took an oath for life.
Sofia Anakhupak took an oath for life.
Elisaveta Mamchak took an oath for life.
Andrei Agikjia  took an oath for life.
Timofei Maltsev took an oath for life.
May 14, 1907
Peter Nossikii, a Japanese took an oath for life.
Paraskoviia Nosskaia took an oath for 1 year
Illarion Ljuka took an  oath for 1 year.
June 10, 1907
Flor Fomin expelled from Temperance Society for breaking oath.
Alex Ryan expelled from Temperance Society for breaking oath.
September 17, 1907
Sofia Wilson took an oath for 2 years
Vasilii Petrov  took an oath for 2 years
Simeon Yunisin took an oath for 2 years.
October 8, 1907
Twelve people violated their oaths to the Temperance Society andwere expelled:
Feodor Malia
Lukiia  Malia (his wife)
Evgeniia Mann
Maxim Knukhutil
Tatiana Knukhutil (his wife)
Pavel Morfei
Mikhail Kasilofsky
Alkdsei Kaviak
Victor Inchidishin
Vasilii Indchidishin
Stepan Kustatanosky
Daria Oskolkoff.

1907
Father Bortnovskii quit and was replaced by Father Pavel Shadura.
End of October 1907
KANGALLEN VILLAGE:Child born, Konstantin, son of Kenaitze Native Vasilii Ivanovich and wife Ivlaliia.
December 26, 1907
KANGALLEN VILLAGE: Child born, Agafiia, daughter of Trifon Vasiliev Broder and wife Mria of the Vonzai Village.  Godmother was Mariia Simeonovna from Vonzai.
December 27, 1907
KANGALLEN VILLAGE: Child born, Evfimii, son of Kenaitze Native called Nikolai Konstantinovich and his wife Aleksandra.

1908-9:
William McKeon of Seldovia married a Dena’ina widow named Anna Nanitak.
Malcolm McNeil of Knik married Dena’ina woman named Anna Chickalusion.
William Hughes of Knik married Dena’ina woman named Maria Stepanova of Susitna village.
Andrei Tolchok, a Dena'ina from Seldovia married Marfa Tapani a resident of Aleksandrovsk
Posto Laverne a Philippino married Olga Nikanoroff of Kenai.
Hans Siversen of Minnesota married Dena’ina woman Yenlu Nudlash Brooks from Old Nondalton.
Jack Kinney (1868-1933) gold prospector in Mulchatna District in 1909, married Elena Balauta from Qeghnilen.

Father Shadura, in a letter, talks about his reasoning for letting 2 young girls get married before the respectable age of 16. He does not say who they married, but  says the girls were: Ekaterina Mishakoff age 14   and  Olga Vaiudulchik age 15 of Kenai. He says he let the girls get married because they already had children and because the girls parents gave permission for them to marry.

1911
Matt Hute, a white man, wanted to marry a young girl that will not become 16 until 1912.  Father Shadura tells him he must wait.

1927-1929
 Nikolai Kalifornskii of Kenai was the church warden (elected by the people instead of appointed by the church). He was the father of Peter Kalifornsky.

1930’s: Savva Stephan was put in charge of maintaining a chapel at Tyonek.

1933
June 17, 1933  Tyonek is moving to a new village site.  All of the icons, alter etc. had to be re-blessed because they were damaged  and fell down during the earthquake.
1934
August 20, 1934  Father Shadura cleaning chapel at Eklutna.  He says it’s the first church service in the chapel since 1912, although the village had raised the ceiling and put on a new roof in 1933.

Miscellaneous Info:
August 2, 1878
Father Shishkin traveled to Chikak Village, a small Kenaitze village 8 hours from Lake Iliamna. He said there are 36 people in the village.  He says that 27 of the residents have syphilis and some of them are children.  The village has no doctor or medicine.  No one seems to know where the illness originated.

April 24, 1882
Father Shishkin traveled to Mulchatna Village on the Mulchatna River.  He says there were 27 Kenaitze in the village.

March 8, 1888
Father Shishkin traveled to Kichik Village near Iliamna.  He not only finds the residents of the village but finds another group of Kenaitze villagers from the Mulchatna River area that had been waiting for him to come to Kichik for a month. Together, there were 176 people.  Father Shishkin tried to convince the Mulchatna Kenaitze to move from the Mulchatna River  to the Kichik area where hunting and fishing were better.  The Mulchatna Kenaitze agreed that they should move. to somewhere closer to Lake Iliamna.

July 24, 1890
Father Shishkin visited Iliamna Village.  The Priest performed a service for the villagers who died of influenza in the fall of 1888 until February of 1889. Twenty-one people died of influenza.  He also visited the village of Kichik where 16 had died from influenza.

February 9, 1895
Father Shishkin visited Iliamna Village.  The village was founded by Savva Riktorov who was the trade agent for the Russian (RAC) Co. which delivered supplies from Kenai to Nushagak.  Savva Riktorov’s sons (7 alive and 2 dead) remain in the village.  Savva Riktorov had 2 wives (1 legal wife and 1 common law wife).  Four sons were born to the legal wife and 4 other children to the 2nd wife.  Mikhail Riktorov (Savva’s brother) works as the agent for the A. C. Co.  The brothers still speak Russian.

Native Residents of Iliamna Village in 1895
Kosma Riktorov age 57
Dariia (wife) age 28
Barbara (daughter) age 4
Vasilii Riktorov  age 51
Mary (wife) age 41
children:
Mikhail  age 26
Stefan  age 21
Paraskeva age 15
Gavriil Riktorov (adopted son) 5

Evfim Riktorov age 53
Agafiia  (wife) age 37
children:
Ioann  age 23
Barbara  age 11

Widow Dariia Tuknikhliushen  age 100

Widow Vassilissa Riktorov  age 38
children:
Mikhail Rictorov II  age 19
Mikhail Rictorov I     age 17
Sofiia  age 16
Lukeriia age 2

Simeon Tagnakhtukhta  age 35
Evokiia   (wife)  age 28
children:
Ekaterina  age 5
Nikita age 6
Agafiia age 2

Kirill Kiltkide  age 32
Mary  (wife)  age 23
Anna  (daughter) age 4

Mikhail Buitokha  age 75  widower
Kirill Buitokha  age 35

Stefanida L’kudkhugtut age 22
Barbara (daughter) age 6

Aleksei L’kagliaga age 43
Akilina  (wife) age 28
Sofia (daughter) age 5

Zakharii Ivanov  age 38
Anastasiia  (wife)  age 28
children:
Marfa  age 6
Evfimii  age 5 (male)
Paraskeva  age 2  (female)

Nikolai Grigoriev  age 43
Marfa (wife) age 20
Marfa (daughter) age 4
Grigorii (son) age 2

Ioann Tugnukadilen  age 26
Ekaterina  (wife) age 21

Ioann Tkil’kide  age 44
Mary (wife) age 38
children:
Ignatii age 7
Zakharii age 1

Feodor Konal’tukta  age 36
Dariia (wife)  age 35
children:
Stefan  age 16
Zinovii age 1

Evdokiia Konal’tukta  age 18
Pataskala  (daughter) age 1

Widow Stefanida Bakun age 50
Panteleimon (son) age 29

Grigorii Zakharov  age 24

Savva Kibul’kahk  age 23

Nikolai L’kagliago  age 21

Andrei Koidul’kil  age 40
Anna (wife)  age 38
children:
Gerasim  age 18
Mikhail age 10
Nikolai age 7
Ekaterina age 4
Paraskeva age 2

Mary  wife of Fred Roehl  age 32
children:
Sergei    (no age given)
Mary       (no age given)
Sofia       (no age given)
Feodor  age 8
Vladimir age 6
Vasilii age 2

Mary, wife of Christian Nelson age 38
 
 

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