Alaska Native religion

Traditional Alaskan Native religion involves mediation between people and spirits, souls, and other immortal beings. Such beliefs and practices were once widespread among Inuit (including Iñupiat), Yupik, Aleut, and Northwest Coastal Indian cultures, but today are less common.[2] They were already in decline among many groups when the first major ethnological research was done.[3] For example, at the end of the 19th century, Sagdloq, the last medicine man among what were then called in English, "Polar Eskimos", died; he was believed to be able to travel to the sky and under the sea, and was also known for using ventriloquism and sleight-of-hand.[4]

Yup'ik medicine man exorcising evil spirits from a sick boy. Nushagak, Alaska, 1890s.[1]

The term "Eskimo" has fallen out of favour in Canada and Greenland, where it is considered pejorative and "Inuit" is used instead. However, "Eskimo" is still considered acceptable among some Alaska Natives of Yupik and Inupiaq (Inuit) heritage and is at times preferred over "Inuit" as a collective reference.

The Inuit and Yupik languages constitute one branch within the Eskimo–Aleut language family and the Aleut language is another. (The Sirenik Eskimo language is sometimes seen as a third branch[5][6][7][8] but sometimes as one of the Yupik languages.[9])


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