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Traditional adoption among the Inuit of Nunavik: its characteristics and consequences on child development

Béatrice Decaluwe, Marie-Andrée Poirier, Gina Muckle

Different practices relating to the exchange or transfer of children can be observed within indigenous or aboriginal groups. Notably, among the Inuit of Nunavik, one third of the children are adopted according to tradition (Rochette et al., 2007). Based on the gifting of a child to another member of the community, this practice of informal adoption stems from the way in which the Inuit understand the family and define the concept of filiation. This article aims to offer a description of traditional adoption among the Inuit. The first part outlines the cultural elements influencing the way this practice unfolds and the main characteristics (reasons leading to the adoption, upholding of the filial relationship, consent, etc.) that distinguish it from other types of adoption (simple, full and open adoption) existing in the Western world. The second part is concerned with the family environment and with the development of adopted children, which is compared to that of children that were not adopted.