Alaska was a Russian Orthodox monk, one of the first to bring the Gospel to the native Aleuts and Eskimos in the Aleutian Islands when the Russians began exploring and trading there. Thus, he marks the first arrival of Orthodox Christianity in North America. He built a school for the Aleutians, and often defended them from the injustices and exploitation of the Russian traders. He was known to them as "Apa" which means "Grandfather." He lived most of his life as the sole resident of Spruce Island, a tiny wooded island near Kodiak Island.