The Shaman Illustration

Far North & Arctic
Native Americans

The Shaman

The shaman was the most important person in each tribe or group. Shamans were paid for their work in food, hides, and other items of value.

The shaman was not a medicine man. He was a mystical man. A shaman was credited with many magical powers. Through the power of chant and dance and magical signs and behavior, the people believed he could call up winds, interpret dreams, break up marriages, and foretell the weather.

The power to control magical beings: The early people of the far north believed in many magical beings. Some were good and some were evil. The shaman had the power to talk to these magical beings and to direct their behavior.

The power to predict the movement of the herds: Before hunters left to follow the herds, they consulted their shaman. The shaman used magical aids to find the best path. First, a shaman carved animal images on a piece of caribou bone. He heated the bone over a fire. When it cracked, hunters were told to follow the lines to find the animals. Since animals were plentiful in olden times, this method almost always worked. As in all far north tribes, the shaman was the most powerful person.

The power to kill: Some ancient people believed shamans could kill someone by sending an evil spirit into their bodies to make them sick or trick them into dying.

In the Kutchin world, people could hire a shaman to kill someone. The shaman was never guilty of anything. He was just doing the job for which he had been paid. Revenge was taken on the people who hired him.

The power to cure: The arctic people believed their shaman had the power to rid a sick person of evil spirits. After that, it was up to the person to get well. Shamans were paid for their work whether the sick person lived or died.

A belief in the power of the Shaman exists in many ancient cultures

The Job of a Shaman to the People of the Plateau (tribes to the south of the Far North people)

The Shaman is not the Medicine Man

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