Institutionalizing Love: The <i>Nuniaq</i>-ing Custom among Alaskan Iñupiat
Keywords:Alaskan Eskimo, Iñupiat, Northwest Arctic, childrearing, childrearing customs, naming practices, kinship, child indulgence, family relationships
Nuniaq-ing young children is a distinctive Iñupiaq childrearing custom that survives to this day. It concerns a kind of stereotyped cooing and singsong phrases directed by adults to infants and young children, and it appears to cement ties of particular kin to particular children. For example, parents use terms denoting the possessive form, paniin "my daughter" and igñiin "my son," to mark a special closeness to one child or another. Naming practices also have significant bearing on applications of the custom. Though seemingly trivial and largely playful on the surface, nuniaq-ing serves to lay the foundation for forging affectionate relationships throughout the life span.