ABSTRACT

The process of assigning personal names throughout Nunatsiavut, Labrador, in response to ecclesiastical and public desiderata is discussed in this article. Naming among the Inuit of Labrador's north coast changed during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries because of the Moravian mission. The adoption of German Christian names for children and adults was to indicate a religious identity change. The system that existed throughout the nineteenth century paired Christian names. Among married couples, the husband was named together with his wife and the wife with her husband in the possessive case, while the son's name was paired with that of his father and the daughter's name with that of her mother. Atitsiak-based naming among Labrador Inuit extended the kinship group as it had in other Inuit societies. It remained relevant and was accepted also by missionaries since Christian Inuit, unlike European Moravians, had no baptismal witnesses or sponsors who would have felt formal responsibility for the child beyond the primary caregivers. Traditional Christian double names for Moravian Inuit lasted in Labrador until the early 1890s when Christian first names began to be supplemented by surnames in response to governmental needs for bureaucratic identification.

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