Russia laid claim to Alaska in 1741, following Vitus Bering’s pioneer voyage across the Pacific from Siberia. Hundreds of Russian fur-seekers followed. The first Orthodox house of worship in America was a chapel built by laymen on Umnak Island in the Aleutians in the 1760’s.
The Orthodox mission established a formal presence in North America, at Kodiak, in 1794 with the arrival of ten monks including North America’s first Orthodox Saint, the humble monk Herman.
Another great cleric, Bishop (also Saint) Innocent (Veniaminov) designed and built the first Russian Orthodox cathedral in North America, St. Michael’s in Sitka, between 1844 and 1848.
The island of Unalaska was first inhabited by the Aleut people, who named it “Ounalashka”, meaning: “Near the Peninsula”. They developed an intricate and complex society long before their first contact with the Russian fur traders who would document their existence.
Unalaska and Amaknak Islands contained 24 settlements with more than 1,000 Aleut inhabitants in 1759, when the first Russian group under Stepan Glotov came and started trading for three years on Umnak and Unalaska.
Between 1763 and 1766, a conflict between the Russian fur traders and the Unalaska Natives occurred; the Aleuts destroyed four Russian ships and killed 175 hunters/traders
Grigory Ivanovich Shelikhov (1747-1795) was a Russian seafarer and merchant born in Rylsk.
Shelikhov organized commercial trips of the merchant ships to the Kuril Islands and the Aleutian Islands starting from 1775.
In 1783–1786, he led an expedition to the shores of Russian America, during which they founded the first permanent Russian settlements in North America. Shelikhov’s voyage was done under the auspices of the Shelikhov-Golikov Company, the other owner of which was Ivan Larionovich Golikov.
The company would later form the basis on which the Russian-American Company was founded 1799.
In 1784, Shelikhov arrived in Three Saints Bay on Kodiak Island with two ships, the Three Hierarchs, Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom and the St. Simon.
The Awa’uq Massacre or Refuge Rock Massacre, was an attack and massacre by Russian fur trader Shelikhov and 130 Russian armed men & cannoneers of the Shelikhov-Golikov Company against the Qik’rtarmiut Sugpiat tribe of Koniag Alutiiq (Sugpiaq) people of the Kodiak Island in 1784 in Russian-controlled Alaska.