Gender and Religion

While all Chipewyan have access to (super)natural knowledge and power (inkonze or inkoze) there is some evidence that men and women may exhibit different means of acquiring and utilizing it (D. M. Smith, 1973, p. 8). For example, Sharp (1981b, 1988,1991) argues that men obtain inkonze from spirit-animal beings in dreams and demonstrate the extent of their power in hunting success. The social divisiveness implicit in differential hunting prowess, in his view, is tempered within the hunting group by women, whose sharing activity binds the membership and occurs largely without direct reference to their men's inkonze. D. M. Smith (1982, p. 38) notes that women's inkonze was most often manifested in curing. However, these interpretations refer to northern Chipewyan groups where women appear to be less active in the direct harvest phases of hunting than among their southern relatives. It is true that southern Chipewyan men also acquire inkonze through dreaming, and they refer to the actual process of obtaining power from animals as biu'aze (Jarvenpa, 1998). While more research is needed in this area, preliminary information suggests that southern Chipewyan women's prowess in a variety of hunting, fishing, gathering, and processing contexts is, no less than men's, an overt manifestation of inkonze.

Since the mid-19th century Chipewyan magico-medicinal and religious knowledge has been in syncretic interaction with French Roman Catholicism and other Christian teachings and customs. However, involvement in church masses, choirs, pilgrimages, and related activity has not resulted in specialized men's and women's roles.

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