Monday, February 23, 2009

Inuksuk (Inukshuk)

One of the iconic symbols of Nunavut, and indeed the Canadian North, is the inuksuk ("something which acts or performs the function of a person"). A word about the word itself: "inukshuk" is the predominant English spelling even though the correct spelling is "inuksuk". "Inuksuit" is the plural. These are the spellings which I am familiar with here. Inuksuit were constructed as reference points, markers for hunting grounds and for navigational purposes. There was a time when I thought of them as nothing more than a pile of rocks. Building them, as I was to discover, is no easy task. It takes time and patience that I am now much better able to appreciate.

These symbols are now being used for the upcoming 2010 Olympics. It's worth mentioning that the little character being touted as an inuksuk, is not in fact an inuksuk, but rather an "inunnguat." These are constructed to more closely resemble a human form than the inuksuk. The inuksuk however, is the more common of the two, hence the confusion. At any rate, I think its wonderful that Inuit culture will play a part in this upcoming international event.

Having said this, here are a few photos of what Canadians recognize as inuksuit (inukshuks).

This isn't really an inuksuk, but a cairn. But it's still quite striking so I include it here.