We hold strong beliefs around how children are named and take great care in choosing a name for an infant. Traditionally, elders or parents named children, often after blood relatives, revered leaders or hunters, or exceptional people. We believe that a person never really dies, their spirit is passed on through our namesake tradition from which children receive their atiq, or “soul name”.
My son was named after both my father (William) but also, Pauloosie, my late uncle at my anaana’s request. You will often hear him being called ‘Pauloosie’ by Inuit and those who knew Pauloosie Takpannie.
Not only do Inuit believe spirits live on through the namesake tradition, but also children take on characteristics and personalities of namesakes. My anaana, as the oldest of her siblings, told me that Pauloosie was breastfed until he was 4. In fact, it’s quite common in our culture to breastfeed past infancy. Child rearing practices such as “extended” breastfeeding are often stigmatized. The indicator of “extended” is a giveaway to the stigmatization. I hear most commonly, “Isn’t he too old for that?” But no, Pauloosie had amaama until 4, and here he is again, getting comfort, joy and love from his anaana.
It is important to normalize decolonizing child rearing practices.