Religious Beliefs. The Montagnais-Naskapi believed that every object and animal in the world around them had its own spirit. Belief in a supreme deity appears not to have been a part of the aboriginal culture, but was evident after Missionization. Religion among the Montagnais-Naskapi was an Individualistic affair. It was believed that those who conducted their lives appropriately acquired increasing powers of Communication with the spirit world as they grew older. Beginning with Jesuit missionization in the early 1600s, Christian and native religious beliefs existed side by side and eventually were integrated into a hybrid system of beliefs and practices reflecting both native and Christian elements.
Religious Practitioners. Shamans used their power to communicate with the spirit world to heal the sick and to Divine through scapulimancy and dream interpretation the whereabouts of game. Traditionally, through conscious effort at communicating with the spirits, both men and women could become shamans. Generally it was the case that each hunting group or band had at least one shaman.
Ceremonies. The Montagnais-Naskapi showed respect for the spirits of the animals they killed in ritual practices that included food taboos and respectful disposal of the animals' bones. Shamans conversed with supernatural spirits in specially constructed lodges in a practice known as the shaking tent rite. In Mistassini hunting groups autumn drumming Rituals in which individuals sang songs given to them by spirits were performed as a means to obtain knowledge about future events. Among the Davis Inlet Naskapi in the 1960s, ritual feasts in which hunters and their families consumed the marrow of caribou bones expressed Naskapi unity and their relationship to the natural world, its animals, and their spirits.
Art. Animal hide and fur robes and detachable leather sleeves of the traditional Montagnais-Naskapi costume were painted with long stripes. Robes, in particular, were often painted with designs in a double-curve motif. Among Mistassini hunting groups songs given to hunters by spirits were sung in drumming rituals in order to forecast future events.
Medicine. Disease was believed to be the result of the invasion of the body by malevolent spirits and a direct consequence of failing to observe the appropriate behaviors regarding the spirit world. Traditionally, shamans employed their power to communicate with the spirit world to help heal the sick. Other curing methods reported among the Montagnais-Naskapi during the early historic period included sweating, blood-letting, and the drinking of specially concocted emetics.
Death and Afterlife. At death the deceased were wrapped in robes or birchbark and buried along with their personal possessions. In winter corpses were placed on a scaffold and buried later; deposition of the deceased on scaffolds may have been a regular funeral practice among the Naskapi. The dead were buried facing west, the direction of the home of the dead in the sky to which the deceased's soul journeyed after death.