Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)




Joshua Piker

Committee Member

Hiroshi Kitamura

Committee Member

Andrew Fisher

Committee Member

Hannah Rosen


"Grandfather Had Baidaras:" Settler Colonialism in Russian America When the merchant Grigorii Shelikhov and his men invaded Kodiak Island in 1784, it represented a drastic shift in the nature of the Russian presence in the northern Pacific. Shelikhov's invasion inaugurated a period in the history of Russian America wherein permanent settlement by Russian colonists was considered both possible and desirable. This paper, utilizing settler colonial theory, argues that this period—from Shelikhov's conquest of Kodiak in 1784 to the dismissal of colonial governor Aleksandr Baranov in 1818—represented an era of settler colonialism in Russian Alaska. By defining Russian territoriality in Alaska, recognizing colonial administrators' aims for permanent settlement, and cataloguing Russian subjugation of Alaskan Natives, this paper demonstrates the settler colonial nature of early Russian Alaska, and thus establishes the "analytical disentanglement" (to quote Patrick Wolfe) which settler colonial theory can provide for the historiography of Russian America. "An Opportunity Unembarassed:" Alaska and the Indian Reform Movement, 1867-1886 in 1886, Secretary of the Interior Henry Teller named Reverend Sheldon Jackson the "general agent of education" for the newly-established territory of Alaska. in so doing, Teller determined that Alaskan Natives—unlike any other Indigenous group in the United States—would be administered by the Bureau of Education within the Department of the Interior, and not the Bureau of Indian Affairs. "An Opportunity Unembarassed" is an examination of all that led to Teller's decision; it is a story about the ways in which the Indian Reform Movement lobbied and agitated in defense of the idea that newly-purchased Alaska represented a chance to introduce a new character of Indian-white relations in the United States. Putting forth a wide variety of arguments, from insisting on the racial distinctiveness of Alaskan Natives to presenting this new relationship as a financial practicality, reformers made the case for the exclusion of Alaskan Natives from standard federal Indian policy. Their efforts, and Teller's ultimate decision, set Alaskan Natives on an historical path altogether distinct from that of other Indigenous Americans, one that continues into the present day.




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