Hare - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. Insofar as can be ascertained, the aboriginal religion was animistic, and the Hare believed also in the existence of a host of supernaturals and in the powers of medicine men or shamans. The Hare lived in an animistic universe in which certain animals had to be respected by observance of a series of taboos. In addition, a poorly understood host of supernaturals peopled the universe: a river monster, bushmen, a thunderbird, a spirit of the moon, a master of animals, ghosts, and perhaps a creator. Today, the Hare are baptized and confirmed into Roman Catholicism, variably observe the Sabbath and say rosaries, and believe in the Christian God and in heaven and hell. Some traditional beliefs persist—in reincarnation, ghosts, the power of shamans to cure some ailments, the efficacy of dreams and amulets, bad luck if certain taboos are broken.

Religious Practitioners . Hare medicine men, or shamans, were visionaries who could predict the future, locate lost objects, counteract the malevolence of non-Hare shamans, relieve hunger, and cure and kill. A shaman gained his power in dreams and could sing to an animal like a wolf, wolverine, or caribou (with whom he maintained a transformative and tutelary relationship), which would help him achieve success. Some Hare shamans had reputations that reached their neighbors. Since the 1860s, Oblate priests have spread Roman Catholicism and lived among the Hare. While the Decline in shamanism is linked to the arrival of Christianity, the belief in the special power of shamanism endured over a hundred years later.

Ceremonies. Aboriginal ceremonies were probably few and ranged from highly individualistic rites (when, for example, a Hare left an offering on a deceased relative's grave to appease the spirit) to ones of concern to a family or the entire band (such as foretelling future events or combating starvation or sickness that affected all). Today, some Hare Indians say their rosaries every night, in town or in camps in the bush, and some—in particular older people—go regularly to church, whereas others neither say rosaries nor attend Services. Sunday Mass at Fort Good Hope regularly attracts one-fifth of the population; a much higher proportion attends services at Christmas and Easter, which are the focal points of weeks-long gatherings that, for the last hundred years, have brought many to Fort Good Hope.

Arts. By the twentieth century, traditional ring and pin and hand games had given way to card games and cribbage, although gambling has been a feature of both traditional and modern games. The Hare have adopted the square dance, but it has not supplanted the traditional drum dance that accompanies important community events.

Medicine. The traditional Hare combated ailments by using certain herbs and by turning to their medicine men, who sang and either extruded the disease through sucking or demanded confession of breaches of taboo. In the mid-twentieth century, some Hare Indians have continued to rely on traditional medicine men to sing over, touch, and cure some sick people, but for illnesses like tuberculosis they have depended upon the White man's medicine. Today, the Hare make use of the nursing station or, in the bush, of traditional techniques unless the problem is clearly one that demands treatment in a hospital or by modern medicine.

Death and Afterlife. Formerly, the dead were placed on scaffolds, but interment by burial has occurred since the Oblates arrived. The body is prepared by the most distant kin or nonkin who observe taboos and henceforth to some degree are avoided by the kin of the deceased. The belief in the need to appease and feed the ghost of the deceased continues today, but self-mortification and destruction of property, both formerly common, no longer occur.

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