Home > Winds of Change > Dreams and Dream Interpretation > Suicide

Assuituq National Park, near Broughton Island.

The melting of the sea ice near Broughton Island.


George Agiaq Kappianaq,
You asked about suicide. Suicide is not new. I heard from my mother about people who strangled themselves. Johnny’s grandmother strangled herself. I told you about the man who shot himself. Attaqtaaq’s husband hung himself as well. I can’t tell you the details, but suicide is not new. People did commit suicide in the past. For example, some people were sick for a long time and just got tired of it. They would take their own lives. Nowadays we talk about how many suicides there are, but suicide is not new. (Page 172)
Given the sad importance of suicide in Inuit communities over the last few years, students want to know how important suicide was in the past. Ka&&ak has never heard of suicides before the arrival of qallunaat, but Pisuk and Agiaq know of a few cases. The latter even mentions that, although we are worried by the number of suicides today, there is nothing new about that phenomenon.

All three elders tell stories about various suicides meant to put an end to heartache, illness and shame. For the latter, Pisuk tells the story of Ujarasugjuk, confronted by an angakkuq about the rape of his daughter-in-law. After admitting it, he committed suicide later that night.

Students notice that Agiaq seems uncomfortable with the topic of suicide. We learn that one of his great-grandchildren has killed himself. He clearly does not understand the motivations behind such an act, and feels like it is something he cannot prevent. People who talk about killing themselves are less likely to actually do it, but there is nothing we can do to help those who do not talk about it.

Students try to tie suicide to dreams in which a dead person beckons the dreamer to follow them into the afterlife. None of the elders know of any such case and all three reject the connection. Ka&&ak points out that when parents die, they want their children to continue living; their tarniit simply would not visit them in their dreams to encourage them to kill themselves. Agiaq tells of a dream about his deceased wife, in which she did not want him to touch her, forbidding him to join her.