INUKSHUK – DIRECTION, NAVIGATION & REASSURANCE
The mysterious stone figures known as Inuksuk (pronounced In-ook-shook) are magnificent human like figures of stone which were erected by the Inuit Peoples of North America. They stand along Canada and Alaska’s most northern shores, and are unique to the North American Arctic. They are made from rock slabs, large and small and built into the shape of a person with their arms or legs out stretched or more traditionally, piles of well mapped out rocks.
The Inukshuk has long been recognized as the compass of the arctic. In the Inuit language Inukshuk means “in the likeness of a human” or “someone was here” or “You are on the right path.” They are often found along animal migration routes for hunters to find the direction of herds.
The purpose attributed to Inukshuk is that they serve as a markers or signposts to help guide Inuit across the treeless tundra of the Canadian Arctic. It can be very easy to get disoriented in the North because in the winter and summer months, the sun does not rise or set and there are no land references to guide people.
The Inuit make Inukshuk in different forms for a variety of purposes, as for navigation or directional aids, to mark a place of respect or memorial for a beloved person, or to indicate migration routes or places where fish can be found or a kayak can be beached. Other similar stone structures were objects of veneration, signifying places of power or the abode of spirits. Although most inukshuk appear singly, sometimes they are arranged in sequences spanning great distances or are grouped to mark a specific place.