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Church in Arctic Bay


The Transition to Christianity

Rachel Uyarasuk
We didn’t know about Easter. We knew about Sunday after we had gone through the siqqitirniq ritual. We knew that Sunday was a day that no hunting was allowed. It was a day that there was supposed to be prayer. People started following this after they went through siqqitirniq. They would go into the largest iglu and pray there. They did not know about the other days such as Easter. Shortly after this we heard about Christmas. We probably heard about it through word of mouth. We learned we had to celebrate the birth of Jesus. That’s when the Christmas celebrations started to happen.

The Transition to Christianity, Chapter 4, p. 130.
The Transition to Christianity

In chapter four, Rachel explains how Inuit started following the Christian religion. She describes the siqqitirniq ritual and her own participation in it when she was a child. For a long time there were no Qallunaat where she lived, and they had no contact with ministers or priests. But Rachel recalls how conversion started when bibles and hymnals arrived by dogteam. The Inuit started to learn how to read and write but a lot of the rules of the new religion were already known by word of mouth. When Inuit converted to Christianity, they had to stop following the pittailiniq, the previous set of rules and taboos. After they decided to follow the new religion they had to rest on Sunday and they also started celebrating Christmas.

Rachel remembers how people gradually embraced Christianity. As with many others, she would not come in contact with a minister until much later. As an adult in Mittimatalik, she finally met one and decided to be baptized. People would be baptized when they were ready, and as with the conversion process, baptism was gradual among Inuit. Eventually people started living in bigger communities where there was a minister or a priest, and they would go pray at the church.

Rachel recalls how the different denominations separated people in Iglulik. Anglicans and Catholics could not pray together or marry each other. But today she remarks that this separation is becoming less vivid as believers try to become more unified.