Home > Development of Government Services in the Arctic > We Call It Survival > Naming

Photo Inuit printmakers at work in the Art Centre


Abraham Okpik
[The] name never dies. It always lives from generation to generation. If the person you were named after was very respected, even old, old people respected the name…

Most people who are about my age, and maybe even a bit younger, still practised the namesake tradition… They were looking to the future. You could be promised within your extended family. People would say, “This is my ukuaksaq, or my daughter-in-law to be, or my ningauksaq, my son-in-law to be.” [When] you knew that you had promised your son to someone, you hoped that he would grow up being very productive like you. This started long ago to ensure survival.
Populations across the North continue to pass on traditional names through generations. Names like Tirigluk, Saila, Salluq, and Kuutu are old, very old: some are so ancient that their meanings have been forgotten.

Survival was of the utmost importance: a family with three children would give one up for adoption to a family that had no children at all. At the beginning of the century, there were no big families.

A sick man would give his wife up to a good hunter: in doing so, he secured his own survival.

Children were given amulets, or protective spirits; inuksuk were used as landmarks for direction and navigation.

Populations across the North share the tools and techniques they developed for hunting and fishing.