Home > A journey into Inuit Traditional Knowledge > Childrearing Practices > Chapter 7

Photo Two Inuit boys 1951

Chapter 7

Uqsuralik Ottokie
In the old days, adoption was always part of our lives. There would be couples that were incapable of having their own children. In the old days, there weren’t that many children. Today there are a lot more children than there used to be. One of the best ways to have a child in the old days was through adoption. They would feed the baby mouth-to-mouth with seal broth because in those days we had no bottles. My father, who was adopted, was fed like that. Our ancestors were very clever in finding a way to feed an adopted child. We called pacifiers uviuraq. (Page 92)
In the chapter Special Cases, the elders speak primarily about adoption and orphans. In the past, and without any legal formalities, adoption was very common. Either a request was made to a couple expecting a baby, or the couple themselves expressed their desire to give the child up for adoption. In both cases, adoption enabled couples who were not able to have children to live the experience. Older people could also adopt children: "... adoption was always a part of our lives." (Page 104)


The entire group would take charge of orphans, care for them and give them sound advice. Being an orphan in no way prevented male children from developing social skills, since the men of the camp taught them everything they needed to know to become good hunters. Although it was taught that children should be treated well, some were mistreated. "Abuses are not only physical. They can also be psychological. When a child is abused psychologically, he or she develops a high level of stress. This in turn tends to worsen, because there is no one there to help him or her." (Page 108) If needed, communities could get together and remove children from their adoptive parents and place them with another family for a period of time. This could also happen with natural children.