Intrigued By Inukshuk

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Fascination with the stone markers of the Inuit

Inuksuit fascinate me. Inuksuit is the plural form of the word inukshut (pronounced en-NUK-shook). Inuksuit are stone markers that have been used by the Inuit, the first people to inhabit portions of Alaska, the Canadian Arctic, and Greenland, for generations as guides or directional markers.

Inukshuk means “that which acts in the capacity of a human” in Inuktitut, the language of the Inuit. An inukshuk can be small or large and consists of several rocks balanced on each other. Because it is built from whatever rocks are on hand, each one is unique.

inukshuk explanation
I never thought much about the different inukshuk shapes until
I visited the Journey to Churchill exhibit at Assiniboine Park Zoo and saw this explanation.

The arrangement of stones indicates an inukshuk’s purpose. Inuksuit may indicate the presence of food, point to a good hunting or fishing spot, mark a sacred place, or act as navigational aids. 

inukshuk showing way
This shape acts as a frame of a distant point to show the best way forward.

For several years I had my own small Inukshuk in my perennial garden. I built it using stones I found in cottage country. I gave no special thought to its shape other than finding a way to best balance the uneven and different shaped stones in a manner to best withstand wind. The elements and the passing bunny did knock it over from time to time and I rebuilt it a few times each summer. Although I had no deliberate shape in mind, the figure marked what was for me a special spot. I left the Inukshuk for the new owners. Whether it is still there or not, I do not know.

The Inunnguaq shape indicates the presence of humans.

The Inunnguaq shape formed the basis of the logo for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada. it was designed by Elena Rivera MacGregor. An Inukshuk forms the central part of the flag of Canada’s northernmost territory, Nunavut.

Inuksuit are a beautiful and clever means of communication that continue to fascinate me. 

Toronto airport inukshuk
Here I am, a few years ago, among the Inuksuit outside one of the terminal buildings at Toronto airport.


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  1. As soon as I started reading this post, I thought immediately of the symbol for the Vancouver Olympics. And then, as soon as I read a little farther, there was the reference. Wonderfully informative. I just might be inspired to build one in my garden. But, what is an Inunnguaq?

  2. I had an imaginary friend when I was a child. I just saw a picture of an Inunnguaq on a UHaul truck, and Bamboompa was on it!!! I’m not sure what this means, but once I found out, my hair stood on end.

  3. Nice write up! Just realized garden centers should have little inukshuk building classes to teach kids to appreciate this culture (and gardening)! Even a city doing one of those guineas record setting themes could have an entire park or streetside of them!