Nunamiuq (Creature of the Land)
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Notes from DaVic Gallery: ‘Nunamiuq (Creature of the Land)’ – Caribou Man is one of many Animal Master Characters in Innu mythology. The Animal Masters are supernatural beings who lead and care for various species of animals and, among other things, give the Innu permission to hunt them for food and materials. Caribou Man is the most powerful of the Animal Masters and sometimes serves as their leader or spokesperson. He is often said to have been an Innu man who fell in love with a caribou woman and turned into a caribou himself. If the spirit of the caribou or other game animals are not properly respected, Caribou Man may become angry and withhold the animals, causing famines. For this reason the Innu are always very careful to follow traditional hunting rituals to show respect to the caribou and other animals, and also to pay homage to Caribou Man himself. The Innu used to use shaking tents to communicate with Caribou Man and the other spirits, although this tradition has fallen into disuse today.
The myth of the young man, Kauitatikumat, who marries a caribou and goes to live with the herd is one of the most central and cherished myth of the Musshuau Innu addressing crucial elements in Innu cosmology, culture and practice of their lives as hunters, demonstrating the merging of the physical and cosmological aspects of hunting. There is reciprocity between the caribous and humans with Kauitatikumat becoming a caribou himself and part of the herd and then the caribou in return wanting to satisfy the hunger of the Innu thus giving life by taking life. Marriage between humans and animals create balance and respect for humans hunting actions as the marriage represents an act of sacrifice by the humans with the boy not returning back with the humans and remaining with the caribou herd. Caribou Man might be seen as human but he really became a caribou after he married a female caribou. He didn’t feel like caribou and saw his wife as a girl.