Anirniliit — Those That Breathe

An important category that overlaps with the other major groups, anirniliit shows the importance of the concept of breathing to represent life. Throughout Inuit culture, breathing is not only associated physically with the heart and lungs, but also metaphorically with having a vital life force, a spirit.

The anirniliit includes all the terrestrial animals – mammals, birds, people, and some terrestrial insects – but excludes aquatic organisms. It is understood that fish breathe, but in a different way – they breathe through their gills, and suffocate in the air just as people do in the water. Terrestrial insects are an interesting problem; they live in the air and therefore might be expected to breathe, but it is not obvious from watching them whether they do or not. Bees, in particular, are thought to breathe because of the noise they make, but the Inuit, as they say themselves, are not particularly interested in whether or not insects breathe as this is irrelevant to their daily lives.