Historical Events

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She told me of how diseases were controlled, how famines were averted, how people were killed or cured by magic, how the future could be foretold and the secrets of the past uncovered, how people could see through hills and fly to the moon, and various things of that sort of which the Christian Eskimo pretend an ignorance and of which they will either tell you nothing or else half truths and untruths.

March 12, 1912

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My Life with the Eskimo - Chapter 24

Biblical Fundamentalism
Christianization
Religion
Eskimo

Vilhjalmur Stefansson

Guninana was not only well informed, but was also, fortunately for me, not such a good Christian as the rest of her countrymen. She had not yet learned that the native lore of her people was essentially wicked and needed to be forgotten, and she told me of how diseases were controlled, how famines were averted, how people were killed or cured by magic, how the future could be foretold and the secrets of the past uncovered, how people could see through hills and fly to the moon, and various things of that sort of which the Christian Eskimo pretend an ignorance and of which they will either tell you nothing or else half truths and untruths. Personally I have always been unable to see why the creations of the Eskimo's imagination should be any more wicked than our “blue-beards," or why the knowledge of the Eskimo method of reading the future should be any more likely to lead to damnation than our palmistry or the reading of the grounds in the bottom of a teacup ; but so it seems to be. And if there are only some of the missionaries who think the native lore wicked , that minority have impressed their views so completely on the Eskimo that no Eskimo who values his immortal soul (and most of them value their immortal souls extravagantly) will defile himself or endanger his eternal welfare by telling the things which they still believe quite as much as they ever did, but which they now consider to be wicked, and which they have abjured on the principle of its not profiting a man to gain the whole earth if he lose his own soul. Most of the Eskimo are a bit regretful over having surrendered the familiar spirits which formerly served them and did their every bidding: changed for them the winds, cured their children when they were ill , and brought caribou to be killed at the very front doors of the houses. Many of them express freely their regret that the use of such useful magic should be incompatible with salvation.