Sonja Luehrmann’s book examines Alutiiq history during Russian and American colonial periods, within the larger context of Russian and American expansion. The author focuses on the intersection of two colonial perspectives, revealing how each society incorporated the Alutiiq community, as a labor force and as a social entity.
Luehrmann’s contribution of rare Russian source material to the topic fills in important blanks in Alutiiq history and the Russian colonial period. Drawing on Russian American Company correspondence and records from the Russian Orthodox Church in Alaska, Alutiiq Villages Under Russian and U.S. Rule uses the observations of Russian clergy and political administrators to reconstruct the relationship between the first colonizers and the Alutiiq people. The subsequent decline in the sea otter population and the purchase of Alaska by the U.S. would force a new economic regime and a new order of life on Alutiiq communities.
In a series of map essays, Luehrmann investigates the changing patterns in settlement and demography of the Alutiiq as the population responded to economic exploitation, new cultural influences, intermarriage, epidemic, and the largest volcanic eruption of the 20th Century.