Home > A journey into Inuit Traditional Knowledge > Perspectives on Traditional Health > Anniasiutigijauvaktuviniit, Material Means Used for Healing and Birth

Photo Eskimos gathered in igloo 1952 Devon Island

Anniasiutigijauvaktuviniit, Material Means Used for Healing and Birth

Alaasi Joamie
« We learned these things from our mothers, our grand mothers and our mothers-in-law. It was as if the adopted baby stopped the miscarriages and the babies from dying. The child was not adopted out because it was unloved or unwanted. This was done because there was a deep compassion for the women who were having a hard time having a baby. These women were given babies to adopt. That is what we know. Our mothers and mothers-in-law had great knowledge. It should be recorded and written down.” (Pages 165-166)
Faced with illness, Inuit were able to take advantage of resources available in their environment to make remedies. Animal by-products were useful, such as polar bear oil, bearded seal oil and fat, the full stomach of the rabbit (placed on burnt skin), the blood found along the spinal cord of fish (a very good remedy against botulism). Also, most plants were consumed and used for medicinal reasons, for external application, or for internal use.

Pregnant women had to follow a lot of advice and obey many prohibitions which would facilitate labour and enable the child to come out quickly into serene and harmonious conditions. Before birth, the soon-to-be mother could eat certain things that would have an influence over the child's gender or appearance.

Many people would accompany the woman during birth, each of them having their specific role and name, including the midwife.

Once the child was born, the midwife would care for the new mother, being especially attentive to the discharge of bodily fluids. The newborn would be stimulated: an accompanier would open up his/her airway, shape the cranium, and sometimes exaggerate certain facial characteristics. The child would be welcomed and given encouragements. According to Inuit tradition, a newborn can understand and feel the emotions around him/her.

In some cases, midwives were able to bring a stillborn back to life. A long and painful labour could mean that the woman didn't shed her worries, or that she might be having twins, or that the child might be changing sex (sipiniq). The Inuit language has a very rich vocabulary where names of plants or parts of the human anatomy are linked with deep knowledge about birth and healing.