• Feature

What’s in a Name?

Atiq (Naming Your Soul)

Oct 15, 2020
by Napatsi Folger

My name has always represented a very important part of my identity, both as an individual and as an Inuk. I was born in Iqaluit, NU, and grew up there until my family moved to Vancouver, BC, when I was seven. That move really affected how I viewed myself as an Inuk and returning home to Iqaluit as a young adult was a shock to my perception of my Inuit identity.

A really big part of what helped me reconnect with my Inuit heritage was the love I received from the family and friends of my namesakes. For Inuit, naming is an important way to connect new generations to late loved ones. An atiapik is a female kinship term for a namesake, most often someone who has passed away. An atiapik is considered to become the person they are named after. I was named after several people:my great grandmother Qilujak, my mother’s late friend Napachie and the iconic artist Napachie Pootoogook

As this comic shows, I had a lot of non-blood relations who treated me like my namesake when I was growing up. It was a very loving and intimate connection to have with people who might otherwise be strangers to me. Being called Anaana (mother) by people very clearly older than me still amuses me to this day. 

Occasionally, we are named after still-living relatives. One of my favourite stories to hear my mother recount is about my great grandmother, Qilujak, whose name I also share. I was a very pale baby, having inherited my father’s Scottish and Norwegian colouring, and whenever she would see me she would coo and say, “look how beautiful and white I am!” 

Now that I’m older, the Inuit naming practice has a new kind of significance to me. After losing family and friends, there is great solace in pouring the love I had for them into the new babies that take on their names. For me, names are the embodiment of love and affection.  


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