note - inuksuk (singular,one), inuksuit (plural, more than one)
The barren tundra is covered with ice and snow and has few natural landmarks. The people of the Arctic created their own landmarks. They used piles of stones as markers. A monument or marker was called an inuksuk (or inukshuk). An inuksuk-like monument in the shape of a human is called an inunnguaq (plural - inunnguat).
an inunnguaq at Rankin Inlet, photo by Ansgar Walk
The shape and size of an inuksuk depended on its purpose or function. The Inuit built inuksuit as a way to communicate with others. Inuksuit were used :
- as markers for hunters (to show migration routes of the caribou or good fishing places).
- to drive a herd of caribou to where they would be killed.
- to show the way for travellers.
- to warn of dangerous places.
- to mark a place of respect (or memorial for a beloved person)
- to mark a place of celebration.
Each inuksuk is unique and varies in size and shape. It is build from stones that are available nearby. It can be :
The way the stones are arranged depends on what the marker is used for. The arms or legs may be pointing in a certain direction for travellers. A pile of rocks with antlers attached might be a marker for a "cache of food".
- small or large
- a single rock or several rocks
- a pile of rocks
- rocks balanced on each other
- built with round rocks or flat ones
Inuit tradition forbids the destruction of inuksuit.
The inuksuk is on the Nunavut flag.
The inuksuk is one of the symbols on the flag and Coat of Arms of Nunavut, a Canadian Territory.
The difference between inuksuit and inunnguat is that inuksuit act as markers and guides. Inunnguat represent people. An Inunnguaq is a symbol on the 2010 Olympic logo.
Human-like stone figures can be found in parks, along roadsides, in yards and in homes.
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information from :
The Canadian Encyclopedia
Canadian Museum of Civilization | photos
What is an Inukshuk ?