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Caribou hunt, near Arctic Bay.

The Life Story of Felix Pisuk

Felix Pisuk
When you are sinnaktuumajuq, dreaming, it seems like something is real, but takutitauniq, a vision, is even more powerful. People might think you are an angakkuq. When I was around fifteen years old the angakkuq Nagjuk was trying to make me into one. I reached a point where I was able to see tuurngait. He told me after three days I would be capable of doing things on my own. My father’s brother did not want me to be an angakkuq so I didn’t become one. My dreams weren’t as strong after that. During those three days I was able to see things that others couldn’t see, but after that I became an ordinary person like everyone else. There are some things I am not so ordinary about. (Page 75)
In this chapter, Pisuk relates various events of his life. Felix Pisuk was born in 1932, between Igluligaarjuk and Qamanittuaq. He was named after his father’s mother. His wife is Qarasaq Olivia and she is the only wife he has had. Pisuk tells of how, having been rejected by the father of his first fiancée, he had a hard time finding a wife. He finally had to get on a boat and find a wife outside his community. Qarasaq was much younger than him. They have had nine children, of which five did not survive, and adopted four more.

Pisuk often comes back to the following major event of his youth. At age 15, the angakkuq Nagjuk offered to make him an angakkuq. Pisuk started his apprenticeship and had reached the point where he was able to see tuurngait, but his uncle intervened and prevented him from completing his apprenticeship. Thus Pisuk lost his beginner’s powers, but Nagjuk still gave him the ability to dream. In order to become an angakkuq, Pisuk had to fast for three days, but he explains that there are other ways to become an angakkuq. In another rite, one is to put the aspiring angakkuq’s shirt in a peregrine falcon’s nest. This produces the most powerful angakkuit. And if you want your child to become an angakkuq, you can run their gums with aavrujait.

Pisuk also tells that he had an unseen lover during his years of celibate. This lover used to come to him in his dreams and make him very happy. He says that this kind of relationship occurred to both men and women, but he does not give any more details. Pisuk used to make other significant dreams. In one of them, a little rainbow was showing him where to find caribou. Pisuk gave his ability to dream to one of his daughters-in-law, but she turned out to be unfit for this gift: she told her dreams to anybody. Dreams are intimate. It can be dangerous to keep them hidden, but they should be shared only with someone you can deeply trust.

Finally, Pisuk makes a few comparisons between angakkuit and priests, and between shamanism and Christianism. When priests arrived, he was told to forget everything the angakkuit taught him. The Church told people that angakkuit were bad. Pisuk himself is a Catholic and goes to church, but he points out that, during his apprenticeship as angakkuq, he had visions, whereas he never has visions in church. He also says that no priest could heal a sick person the way the angakkuit used to.