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The Transition to Christianity

Transition to Christianity

The Transition to Christianity is based on two interviews conducted by students at Nunavut Arctic College in 1999. Victor Tungilik and Rachel Uyarasuk, two elders from Iglulik, share with the students their recollections of this time of change, when Inuit started following the new religion.

Chapter one and two present the life stories of the elders. In chapter one, Rachel talks about her childhood in Kangiq&ugaapik and shares her knowledge about how religion was practiced during important moments in women's lives. Then, Victor Tungilik remembers the important changes he had to face when he became a Christian. Both grew up before the appearance of missionaries in their area and they talk about their own conversion. They also remember the spiritual life of Inuit when they started following the new religion. Victor gives an enlightening account of the changes it brought in angakkuit's lives, as he himself let go of his shamanistic powers when he decided to become a Christian.

The accounts of the elders allow us to understand how this transition occurred between old and new beliefs, and lets us grasp the synthesis that was undertaken by Inuit, even before they had regular contact with missionaries. Victor and Rachel's accounts constitute a new perspective on this time of individual and collective conversion. In the course of the interviews, both elders share with the students and the readers their deep religious feelings.

Rachel Uyarasuk
Whenever anyone would disclose a wrong-doing, whoever was able to read would read from the Bible and there would be prayers. At the time there was a minister form the Pangniqtuuq area. We started receiving Bibles and hymnals by dogteam. That was when we were converting to Christianity. I don’t remember any angakkuit using their powers after that. They would pray instead when people were sick. I heard one person who went through the siqqitirniq ritual say that he was going to let go of all his healing powers that he used when he was an angakkuq.

The Transition to Christianity, Chapter 4, p. 126.