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The Inuit and the Amish the differences between them are as great as the distance which separates them Yet these two groups of people do share one distinct commonality they each represent a very unique society Why is it then that the Amish have been able to almost completely withstand the influences of the vast North American culture which surrounds them while the Inuit way of life has been forever changed by its contact with the inhabitants from south of the Arctic Circle The Inuit are people of Arctic Mongoloid ancestry inhabiting small enclaves in the coastal areas of Greenland Arctic North America and extreme northeastern Siberia Their name for themselves is Inuit in Siberian and some Alaskan speech Yuit meaning the people Traditional Inuit beliefs are a form of animism according to which all objects and living beings have a spirit All phenomena occur through the agency of some spirit Intrinsically neither good nor evil spirits have the ability to affect peoples lives and although not influenced by prayers can be controlled by magical charms and talismans The person most effective in controlling spirits is the shaman but anyone with the appropriate charms or amulets can exercise such control Shamans are usually consulted to heal illnesses and resolve serious problems Communal and individual taboos are observed to avoid offending animal spirits and animals killed for food must be handled with prescribed rituals Inuit rituals and myths reflect preoccupation with survival in a hostile environment Vague beliefs of an afterlife or reincarnation exist but these receive little emphasis Most communal rites center on preparation for the hunt and myths tend to deal with the relationships that exist between humans animals and the environment While none of these beliefs is grounded in any scientific theory or explanation that we western-based science society would find acceptable nearly all Inuit held fast to them - until recently As we continue to approach the twenty-first century
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