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Author Topic: Inuit Perspective on Inuit Religions and Cultures?  (Read 1130 times)

Arthurine

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Inuit Perspective on Inuit Religions and Cultures?
« on: October 17, 2013, 12:47:49 am »
Can anyone point me to an Inuit perspective on Inuit religious/cultural history? I would settle for a source that wasn't full of casual racism/exotification, but I would feel much better reading/supporting an Inuit author.

I feel it is inappropriate for me to try to build a relationship with any of the deities or execute any of the practices I have read about from these cultures because I'm white and I don't want to do The Thing where you just take the attractive bits from a culture that has been oppressed by white cultures. With that said, I am deeply interested in learning more about Inuit cultural and religious traditions.

I have a very close relationship with a spirit guide who at times appears as a polar bear and this led me to looking more into cultures in which the polar bear has a place. Everything I have read about the Inuit which seemed even slightly credible has left me feeling very moved. It's hard to find things that read as credible on the internet; most of what I've found online reeks of Eurocentric tertiary sources.

Thanks for reading!

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Ayahz

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Re: Inuit Perspective on Inuit Religions and Cultures?
« Reply #1 on: November 06, 2013, 08:09:40 pm »
Quote from: Arthurine;125739
Can anyone point me to an Inuit perspective on Inuit religious/cultural history?


Since no one has posted anything on here I'll give you a little insight I have learned from dealing with the natives around my town(I live in a smaller town in Alaska) A lot of their cultural history is still oral. Many of the villages are so rural the elders will teach the traditions from old. A small question tho. which branch of native culture are you looking for? There are quite a few different ones. Being Canadian, American or Siberian? I've found a few things on Shamanism with them but its sparse at best. Here is a wiki site that kinda breaks it down but its alittle vague.

Wiki about shamanism.
Hope that helps you some

SeaTurtleSwims

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Re: Inuit Perspective on Inuit Religions and Cultures?
« Reply #2 on: November 07, 2013, 03:36:38 pm »
Quote from: Ayahz;128593
A lot of their cultural history is still oral.
Hope that helps you some

This is a great point. I'm sorry I don't have an Inuit author text I can offer you, but Shamanism: A Reader by Graham Harvey was a good source to me when I became interested in learning more about shamanism. It covers the eastern Siberian people and their expansion East. It discusses what is known of varying cultural practices in these regions and how they compare to the modern, neo pagan variety of shamanism and raises the question of whether or not they are even the same thing. While the book is not written by an Inuit, there are excerpts and passages of traditions and stories written down. I would consider this less a how-to and more a rounded history of the places, people, culture, plants and religion affiliated.

Sorry if this isn't quite what you're looking for, but I hope this helps~

Edit: If you do decide to look into it, I found a copy at my university library. Just a thought~ cheaper than ordering!
« Last Edit: November 07, 2013, 03:41:26 pm by SeaTurtleSwims »

Nyktipolos

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Re: Inuit Perspective on Inuit Religions and Cultures?
« Reply #3 on: November 07, 2013, 04:51:45 pm »
Quote from: Arthurine;125739
Thanks for reading!

I'm going to take a different route and suggest you steer clear of anything that suggests it talks about Inuit shamanism, Eskimo shamanism, or is under the umbrella of shamanism. The fact is that (and it's entirely possible you already know this, since in your post you're aware there can be an Eurocentric bias to a lot of stuff on the web when it comes to Native culture and literature!) shamanism was a term developed by people outside of these cultures, to try and define them by one culture's word (shaman), and say that while they have differences, they are all actually alike. It's taking away the power for self-identification, and obscuring someone from *actually* learning what the culture is about on their own terms, rather than that of a very white, Eurocentic privileged view.

(I am currently trying to find the post now by Catja [or at least, I thought it was Catja!] who discussed how the term is actually outdated in proper anthropological research. It's really only continued to be used now by bad scholars, and those still using the term outside of academia who do NOT understand how harmful the term can be for actual education and learning.)

Literature written by Inuit people is becoming more popular now (as is all Native lit, actually!), and it's becoming easier to access! Most of it tends to involve their indigenous religions in some matter, because for many Native cultures, it's interwoven with the rest of their culture. Not all mind you (I can't speak for over 500 different cultures!), but many. Ayahz is right though: many stories and traditions are still taught orally and not written down to be passed onto the next generation, and are located in remote communities.

I work in a specialized library that focuses on Aboriginal culture, and I occasionally order Inuit stuff when I come across it because it's not a strong point in our collection, but here are a few books I have ordered that are pretty cheap, and are available through Amazon or Chapters (Indigo)!

Stories in a New Skin: Approaches to Inuit Literature by Keavy Martin
    Martin is not actually Inuit, but she went up north and lived there for a time, learned Inuktitut, and actually listened to their stories and wrote a book to help outsiders understand Inuit lit

Unipkaaqtuat Arvianit: Traditional Stories from Arviat by Mark Kalluak

Unipkaaqtuat Arvianit: Traditional Inuit Stories from Arviat - Volume 2 by Mark Kalluak
    I'm aware it looks an awful like a children's book, but a lot of Native people now who are gathering and publishing traditional stories are making it in a way so it is accessible to all walks of life, including children. He collected a number of traditional Inuit stories from elders and started publishing them (and he illustrated them himself). The summary states he started collecting stories from the
Arviat region (so, these stories *can* be specific to that region) in the 1970's, including some from his mother.

So, this might be useful to you if you want to read actual traditional stories from an Inuit culture. :)
[/LIST]

Kiviuq's Journey (website)
    Not a book but a website that had a number of oral stories from elders written down and published on the web about a folk hero named Kiviuq (I am aware the main page says he is a "shaman-hero", and I wonder if that's the bias of the translator or not). It might give you some perspective on Inuit culture and oral stories, and it seems some of them include a "how other elders tell the story" bit at the end of them.

Names, Numbers, and Northern Policy: Inuit, Project Surname and the Politics of Identity by Valerie Alia (not an Inuit author)
    This one isn't specifically about stories, but I came across it while doing research and it may be interesting to you in learning how outside interference can really disrupt a culture's identity. It's Canadian-specific, and talks a lot about Project Surname, where the Canadian gov't spent some time re-naming Inuit people so they would better fit how Canadians name themselves, and the ramifications of having someone OUTSIDE your culture naming things around you, not just people.

GoodMinds.com
    Okay, last misc item, I swear! GoodMinds is a distributor of Aboriginal literature, and they include a lot of Inuit lit in there that you may find interesting (and can't find on Amazon). It can be a little tricky to use sometimes, but I found it easy enough to order from. Even though they say they supply libraries and schools with books, you as an individual can definitely order from them (and you'd be supporting a family-run Aboriginal business!).

Other terms you might want to look into for research would be angakkuq, if you are looking for the "shaman" equivalent in Inuit cultures (and although it doesn't seem necessary to say to you, Arthurine, it might be prudent to say if people find this thread far from now: I would strongly suggest not adopting this term if you are not Inuit and/or not a part of the culture, because to do so would be cultural appropriation and incredibly disrespectful) and "Inuit culture centres". For the last one I found primarily Canadian culture centres, but that may be because my search results are skewed to reflect which country I live in.

I'll continue trying to find more books, but you might also want to hit up your local public library OR a university library if you have one close by. Uni libraries often offer memberships to the public for a fee (and more restrictions) but the staff there may be able to direct you towards harder to find books, resources, or even get you access to some articles that may help. :)

I would also like to say don't dismiss children's books! Like I said above, many of the stories that contain traditional stories from elders are being written and published at children's stories, and you'll often learn a lot about the story simply being written as is, rather than reading it as it's surrounded by dissecting and discussion about the story. Not that that is bad, but if you're looking for stories and worried about money ... well, this might save you some money. ;)

I hope this helped!
« Last Edit: November 07, 2013, 04:54:44 pm by Nyktipolos »
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OfSunlight&Shadows

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Re: Inuit Perspective on Inuit Religions and Cultures?
« Reply #4 on: December 24, 2013, 08:35:53 am »
Quote from: Arthurine;125739
Can anyone point me to an Inuit perspective on Inuit religious/cultural history? I would settle for a source that wasn't full of casual racism/exotification, but I would feel much better reading/supporting an Inuit author.

 
Not sure how good this is, but it's a dissertation, so I'm hoping it's an okay resource. It's maybe a bit too specific, but it does seem to cover some of the general religious aspects.

Nelda Swinton - The Inuit sea goddess
Quote

This thesis reviews the Inuit myth of the sea goddess, Sedna, and analyzes contemporary Inuit artists' illustrations of this sea spirit who at one time created a powerful impact on the Inuit's way of life. The Introduction discusses the important ethnographic contributions as they relate to Inuit material culture. Furthermore, there is a review of various writings where there was recognition of the imagistic values of certain Inuit "artifacts."

Chapter One restates an historical development of Inuit art, dating back to the Dorset culture up to the present period. The various forms of the myth of the sea goddess are listed, followed by a discussion of the visual illustrations of this sea spirit in accordance with each individual Inuit artist's narrative and stylistic interpretation.

Chapter Two reviews the various traditional religious beliefs of the Inuit as they related to the cult of the sea goddess.

The conclusion points to the fact that the once oral myth of the sea goddess has been altered into a visual illustration which is a consequence of a number of cultural changes.

Table of Contents

List of illustrations
List of maps & tables

Introduction
a. historical analysis
b. the Inuit sea goddess

Chapter 1
The Inuit sea goddess - myths and images
a. historical development of Eskimo art
b. geographic locations and origin myths of the sea goddess
c. the sea goddess' characteristics

Chapter 2
Souls, the sea goddess and shamans
a. souls and taboos: their relationship to the sea goddess
b. the shaman's role in propitiating the sea goddess
c. human souls and the sea goddess' abode
d. the Sedna festival

Conclusion
Footnotes
Biblio
Illustrations


PDF link here (will either open as a PDF in browser or download, depending on your browser):
http://spectrum.library.concordia.ca/5705/1/MK68085.pdf

Nyktipolos

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Re: Inuit Perspective on Inuit Religions and Cultures?
« Reply #5 on: December 25, 2013, 01:37:21 am »
Quote from: OfSunlight&Shadows;133840
Not sure how good this is, but it's a dissertation, so I'm hoping it's an okay resource. It's maybe a bit too specific, but it does seem to cover some of the general religious aspects.

Nelda Swinton - The Inuit sea goddess


PDF link here (will either open as a PDF in browser or download, depending on your browser):
http://spectrum.library.concordia.ca/5705/1/MK68085.pdf

 
I'm legitimately curious (I am not being snarky here) why you suggested it then? What is it about Nelda Swinton that makes her work stand out? How legitimate is she seen in her academic community? Is she from an Inuit community? How relevant is her work to what we know now, as it was initially written in 1985?

I don't think that she *can't* have an informed opinion, or that because she isn't Inuit she has no idea or shouldn't be writing about this, just to clarify. :)
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OfSunlight&Shadows

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Re: Inuit Perspective on Inuit Religions and Cultures?
« Reply #6 on: December 25, 2013, 04:16:50 am »
Quote from: Nyktipolos;133916
I'm legitimately curious (I am not being snarky here) why you suggested it then? What is it about Nelda Swinton that makes her work stand out? How legitimate is she seen in her academic community? Is she from an Inuit community? How relevant is her work to what we know now, as it was initially written in 1985?

I don't think that she *can't* have an informed opinion, or that because she isn't Inuit she has no idea or shouldn't be writing about this, just to clarify. :)


I shared it because I thought it might appeal to the OP. It's one of the few things I've personally come across about the topic and so I figured I'd share. :o I mean, when I'm researching things, I try to get everything I can and from there, weed things down...

I misread the part I quoted, it seems. I thought Arthurine was looking for resources about the Inuit POV, not just the Inuit POV written by an Inuit. I apparently glossed over the very first part of the text I quoted, though I did see the part at the end of the quote about preferring Inuit authors -- which I read as open to others, but wanting Inuit first (and since others provided that, I thought I'd share something I came across).

I have tons and tons of dissertations on hand about all kinds of Pagan topics and those that I have read were helpful to me, so I figured this may help the OP. I also figured that I could share a resource and Arthurine could look further into it and decide if it was acceptable or not. I didn't really see the harm in it. I guess, next time I will be more prudent with what I share or mention. But, it's too late to delete my first post, so things are what they are.
;)

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Re: Inuit Perspective on Inuit Religions and Cultures?
« Reply #7 on: December 25, 2013, 04:52:25 am »
Quote from: OfSunlight&Shadows;133926
But, it's too late to delete my first post, so things are what they are.

We don't allow deletion of posts at all (see our rules, which you agreed to when you joined), so 'too late' is sort of irrelevant.

Nor is Nyktipolos saying that you should delete it, or shouldn't have posted it; they're simply asking for elaboration on why you thought of it as a good resource. It sounds like your answer to that is, "I don't really have the knowledge base to tell just how good it is, but it's what I have, so I thought I'd share" - that's a perfectly good reason, but because TC tends to have quite high standards of scholarship and of social justice, it's also good to be explicit about your reasons for providing a resource, especially one in a field that's been subject (as Arthurine alluded to when expressing a preference for Inuit authors) to academics from outside the culture putting their own interpretations ahead of those who are part of the culture.

Again, this is not to say don't provide resources, just that being clear on what its strengths and weaknesses are, and on the ways you can and can't evaluate that, is really good to do.

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« Last Edit: December 25, 2013, 04:54:18 am by SunflowerP »
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