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The Inuit believed that all things -- people, animals and forces of nature -- had spirits. One of the most important spirits was Sedna, also called Nuliajuk, the spirit of the sea. She lived at the bottom of the sea and controlled the sea mammals. Some say that she had a great dog that guarded her house. In the oral tradition, Sedna was originally a young girl who refused to marry. In a rage, her father forced her to marry a dog. After seeing that what he had done was wrong, he drowned the dog. That is how the dog ended up under the sea. This left Sedna's children without a father. One day, a bird disguised as a man wanted to marry Sedna. After marrying him, Sedna discovered her new husband wasn't a man after all. Sedna's father tried to help her escape in a boat, but her husband flapped his wings and overturned the boat. As she grasped the boat's side, Sedna's fingers got cut off. The fingers turned into the different mammals of the sea like the seal, whale and walrus. Today, the Inuit say Sedna lives with her first husband, the dog, under the sea. Her father drifted away in the boat and whenever human beings do wrong he returns to punish them.
Although a story like this is hard for us understand, what it tells us is that the Inuit believe that they have a special relationship with all the living things around them. Dogs and sea mammals help them to survive. Often, what is important in an oral tradition isn't the facts, but the life lessons we can learn from them.
A shaman (healer) is a person who is in touch with the different worlds of the spirits. That is because most shamans believe there are more worlds than just the earth. An Inuit shaman is called an "angakkuq". He is able to cure the sick. Angakkuit (plural for angakkuq) sometimes become shamans by first becoming sick themselves. While sick, they learn about life. Sometimes they have a vision. An angakkuq is even supposed to be able to tell what kind of weather is coming. Sometimes the angakkuit will use the spirits of the sea and land to help cure the sick. Inuit angakkuit wore a belt that was a symbol of their powers. They also used a drum that helped them contact the spirits. Today, most Inuit are Christian, so the angakkuit are not as important as they once were. However, the Inuit still remember the songs and drums of the angakkuit.