Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley on Inuit Shamanism in “Rosie”

Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley on Inuit Shamanism in “Rosie”Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley are the authors of “Rosie,” a story in the anthology This Place: 150 Years Retold. The story features illustrations and colour art by GMB Chomichuck. In their author statement below, Rachel & Sean delve into how colonization affected the Inuit, as well as some of the principles of Inuit shamanism.

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Secrecy. Intuition. Isolation. These factors conspired to make Inuit latecomers to assimilation. The result is that Inuit retain specifics regarding their cosmogony and shamanism—traditions spanning the circumpolar Arctic and laughably huge compared to our tale set around Canada’s “Foxe Basin.”

Doing a search for “Inuit beliefs” can get pretty depressing. Inuit psychology, as rendered in many sources, is presented as chaotic. Crude. But most researchers failed to understand that shamans (Inuktitut, aangakkuit; eldritch word implying “ecstatic ones”) were expressing a form of “imaginal intelligence” (praised by Einstein) necessary for physical and psychological survival. This is a vision of existence using layered, reiterating systems, whether in the human heart, or ice and wind.

“Rosie” is a nod to shamanism—a secret history of Inuit. To its layers. Much of this story is true. And while we’re not going to pluck at fact over fiction, for those who think the idea of shamans versus Nazis is … over-the-top, well, that really did happen. The dolls were real, too. So don’t be surprised at the rest.

Please note this, if nothing else: shamanism is different from spirituality. Aangakkuit are specialists in the soul (of any life), a membrane where mind meets spirit. The mind is temporary, while spirit is borrowed from a greater All, eternal and beyond expression. Shamans, in this sense, are not spiritual people. One might instead call them practitioners of “psychotechnology” (there’s a nice made-up word for you). Not the Inuit religion, but a system. An understanding. Of what? (Inuit secrecy…)

– Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley

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Interested in more from Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley? Read about their award-winning young adult novel, Skraelings: Clashes in the Old Arctic and find “Rosie” in This Place: 150 Years Retold.

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Explore the past 150 years through the eyes of Indigenous creators in this groundbreaking graphic novel anthology. Beautifully illustrated, these stories are an emotional journey through Indigenous wonderworks, psychic battles, and time travel. See how Indigenous peoples have survived a post-apocalyptic world since Contact.

Featuring Stories By: Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm, Sonny Assu, Brandon Mitchell, Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley, David A. Robertson, Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair, Jen Storm, Richard Van Camp, Katherena Vermette, and Chelsea Vowel

Illustrated By: Tara Audibert, Kyle Charles, GMB Chomichuk, Natasha Donovan, Scott B. Henderson, Ryan Howe, Andrew Lodwick, and Jen Storm

Colour By: Scott A. Ford and Donovan Yaciuk

This is one of the 200 exceptional projects funded through the Canada Council for the Arts’ New Chapter program. With this $35M investment, the Council supports the creation and sharing of the arts in communities across Canada.

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