Chipewyan - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. Chipewyan religious beliefs were based on the idea of power being given to human beings in dreams by animal spirits. This power could be used to cure sickness or control game and other natural phenomena and was a factor in leadership. Today most Chipewyan are practicing Roman Catholics.

Religious Practitioners. Shamans, in particular, were believed to possess supernatural powers.

Arts. Drums are the only musical instruments known to have existed in aboriginal times.

Medicine. Illness was believed to be the result of hostile, usually non-Chipewyan sorcerers. In curing ceremonies the shaman sang and danced to summon his spirit helpers. It was believed, however, that he would be successful only if his powers exceeded those of the sorcerer causing the sickness.

Death and Afterlife. Except in the case of the very old, death, like illness, was thought to be the work of a hostile sorcerer. The Chipewyan believed that the dead are reincarnated and return to earth as men or wolves and often with supernatural powers. In aboriginal and early-contact times hunting groups abandoned their camp after a member's death and left the deceased unburied.

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