Most Arctic peoples believed that all things, living and nonliving, had souls. They tried to respect all of these souls or spirits, especially those of the animals they hunted. This was thought to be necessary if people wanted to stay healthy and have a good life, because a mistreated animal spirit could possibly turn against the people. Anyone who might have suffered because of this will usually wander out of camp to pray and ask for forgivness.

Their environment also controls what is hunted. Hunting land and sea animals with the same weapon was strictly forbidden. Caribou meat had to be cooked on land and sealskin had to be sewn on the sea ice. Meat from land and sea animals could not be stored together. Caribou meat
and freshwater fish couldn't be cooked when the tribe was living on the sea ice, although they could be eaten raw. They could only be cooked on land but not over a fire made from driftwood, since it comes from the sea.

The Arctic groups thought highly of the polar bear since it inhabits both land and water. Because seals and other sea mammals lived in salt water people thought they were always thirsty. So, their spirits were soothed if offered a drink of freshwater. It was believed that birds longed for oil, so it was rubbed on their heads, feet, and wing joints before plucking or skinning them. Spirits of caribou were deeply offended if dogs were allowed to gnaw their bones near the place of their death. Wolves and bears were especially dangerous animals and, after a kill, special offerings were made.

One of the Arctic's favorite traditions is to dance. Dancing is done at ceremonies, gatherings, and many other times that people are together. Dance is also used in healing. By singing, dancing, and beating on drums, a shaman, or healer, tries to find connection with the spirit world.

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Traditional Wolf Dance


People were also respectful of names. When someone died, his or her name couldn't be mentioned until a baby was given the same name and brought it back to life. It was believed that the baby would inherit the good traits of the deceased. Similarly, it was considered bad luck to say one's name out loud. When arriving at another person's home, visitors simply announced themselves by saying, "Someone is here."