Blessed Matushka Olga, center, stands with Orthodox clergy in this undated photo.

Last month, the Orthodox Church in America decided to canonize Blessed Matushka Olga, an Alaska Native Yup’ik woman who died in 1979.

Born in 1916 and given the Yup’ik name, Arrsamquq, she lived a life of subsistence in the village of Kwethluk, Alaska, on the Kuskokwim River. Her husband, Nikolai Michael, was the village postmaster and general store manager before becoming a priest. 

Living with humble means, Olga still gave generously to those in greater need, preparing warm clothes and boots and showing incredible empathy for those who suffered from various forms of abuse and trauma, especially women.

She also served as the village midwife, and gave birth to her own 13 children, eight of whom survived to childhood.

Long before her official cause for sainthood was underway, Olga was widely known as a holy and virtuous woman, and was venerated as such among her the people with whom she lived.

She will be the first female Orthodox saint of North America, and her life will be celebrated annually on October 28/November 10, and on the feast of All Saints, after Pentecost.

In his formal letter describing Olga’s life and faith, Bishop Alexei said she was renowned for her “humility, her generosity, her piety, her patience, and her selfless love for God and neighbor were well-known in the Kuskokwim villages during her earthly life.”

“Her care for comforting the suffering and the grieving has also been revealed after her life by grace-filled manifestations to the faithful throughout not only Alaska, but all of North America,” he added. “The first peoples of Alaska are convinced of her sanctity and the great efficacy of her prayers.”

A special service will take place with Bishop of Sitka and Alaska Alexei to officially recognize Olga as a saint of the church, and icons and relics of her will be prepared for various churches in her honor.

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First Alaska Native woman to be recognized as a saint for Orthodox Church in America

Joel Davidson
Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 24 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.


  • Joe Drayton says:

    A great day for Alaska. All should celebrate this amazing women. Her life of humility and generosity should be a guide to all of us in the “ me only “ world we live in.

  • George says:

    It would be great to make a life sized sculpture of her to put in a public space.

  • DaveMaxwell says:

    Afraid of the truth in my unposted comment?

    • DaveMaxwell says:

      Dunceleavy is married to a native! No comments from him on this subject speaks volumes!

  • Friend of Humanity says:

    Thank you for this article Mr. Davidson. While I think that Matushka Olga should be remembered for her faith and ability be a servant of Our Heavenly Father, I do not know enough about saints to comment on that portion. Directed towards George’s comment: is your comment meant to be sarcasm? Just seems like an odd comment in this day when so many statutes are being torn down by those who hate religion.
    I think that the timing of these events involving the native people is pretty interesting. I wondered if they are being pacified or making them look in another direction while something else is happening?

  • Lucinda says:

    F: where is your faith in and friendship of humanity?

  • Steve P Peterson says:

    A saint is anyone who trusts in Christ for salvation. Paul called the Corinthian church- yes, that incorrigible body of believers- saints.