Saint Herman of Alaska (1750–1836) was an Orthodox monk and missionary to Alaska, which was then part of Russian America. His gentleness and his ascetic life earned him the love and respect of both the native Alaskans and the Russian colonists. He is considered by many Orthodox Christians as the patron saint of North America.
The Natives were mistreated by the Russian colonists, and St Herman earned respect by defending the rights of the Natives. After ten years, he became the head of the Russian Orthodox mission in America, established better relations with the managers of the Russian-American Company, and taught reading and writing, catechism and Church singing.
By 1817, he had moved to Spruce Island to practice solitude as a hermit. He wore simple clothes and slept on a bench covered with a deerskin. When asked how he could bear to be alone in the forest, he replied, “I am not alone. God is here, as God is everywhere.”
Despite his solitary life, he soon gained a following. He received many visitors on Sundays and Church feasts. Soon his hermitage had next to it a chapel and guesthouse, and then a school for orphans.
Herman had a deep love for the native Aleuts. He continued to stand up for them against the excesses of the Russian-American Company, and once during an epidemic he was the only Russian to visit them, working tirelessly to care for the sick and console the dying. Herman spent the rest of his life on Spruce Island, where he died on November 15, 1836.
On March 11, 1969, the bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia officially glorified Herman among the saints of the Church. His annual feast was established on December 12, which is December 25 on the civil calendar.