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photo Inuit woman securing her child in her hood

Chapter 5

Uqsuralik Ottokie
While the child is growing up, some do take after the person they are named after. Some girls tend to be tomboys at a young age. We think they are following their name. The girl is dressed like a boy. It is only for a short period of time that they are raised like that. Some girls want to be like that even when they are older and some just want to be like that for a while. When a boy has a woman’s name they braid his hair because of the name. They are raised like this to show love to the person they were named after. That’s why they practise this. They look like girls for a while. It is only for a short time that you should do that. You should stop this when they come of age because if it is not done soon enough the boy will keep some female characteristics. They won’t think of themselves as real men. (Page 73)
In the times of the angakkuit (shamans), people could help shape their child's future. For example, an angakkuq would sit a baby boy on his lap and simulate the hunt of a beluga by making the baby's arm do the movements as if holding a harpoon, or by imitating the movement of a paddle. This would help the baby to become a great hunter. Girls were excluded from this custom, except if their name was that of a great hunter. "Back then, if a girl had the name of a hunter, you treated her as you would a hunter. She wore men's clothes and performed manly activities." (Page 73)

It was not uncommon for a girl to have a boy's name, and vice versa. Thus, during a part of her life, the girl would be brought up and treated as if she was a boy. But it was important to be ready to stop such behaviour before she (or he) was to understand her (or his) true gender. Otherwise, it could lead to very important psychological after-effects.

The eldest of the children also had her role in the education of her younger siblings. She could argue and call down to her younger brothers and sisters over their behaviour. And, as opposed to today, it was uncommon for children to fight with each other, since their sole means for distraction were games played together.