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The Wonder and Wander of INUKSUK Navigational Tools of the Indigenous Canadians

Marietta Pangan

What is it?

According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, Inuksuk termed Inukshuk, plural forum Inuksuit, is a figure made of piled stones or boulders constructed to communicate with humans throughout the Arctic.

Inuksuit was constructed by Inuits, one of the Indigenous people in the northern regions of Canada. Inuksuit are integral to Inuit culture and are often intertwined with representations of Canada and the North.

Courtesy Caps and Lenses Photography by Marietta

Did you know?

The oldest Inukshuk is 1.3 billion years old.

Inuksuk National Historic Site of Canada is situated on the Foxe Peninsula, approximately 88.5 km from Cape Dorset on the Southwest of Baffin Island, Nunavut. Inuksuit have been found close to archaeological sites dating from 2400 to 1800 BCE in the Mingo Lake region of southwest Baffin Island. These rocks are among the oldest rock formations in the world. It is estimated to be 1.3 billion years old.

The world's and ultimately largest Inukshuk (11 metres tall and weighing 82,000 kilos) is south of Schomberg, Northern Toronto. This landmark is a property of Allstone Quarry Products. The sculpture was constructed from 11 granite slabs trucked in from the Grenville Mountains in the Canadian Shield.

It is a collection of stones assembled to resemble a human shape.

The Inukshuk (pronounced as "in-nook-suuk") means something that acts for or performs the function of a person. It mirrors this Canadian spirit of friendship and community. A red inuksuk is found on the flag of Nunavut. Inuksuit has been transformed into a symbol of hope and friendship that transcends borders to reach people worldwide. Inuksuit represent the values that make Canada indeed a great place to live.


Inuksuk is about the capacity of a human." It is an extension of the word inuk, "being human." The Inukshuk conveys our fundamental human warmth and friendliness as Canadians and provides a symbol of friendship for visitors arriving,

Inukshuk is found across Canada.

There are 100 inukshuks at Inuksuk Point on Baffin Island in Nunavut!

Traditionally, they were used by the Inuit in the North as directional markers. They were visible in snowy conditions, could endure extreme weather, and ultimately help people survive.

These stone sculptures were also crucial for navigation, as a reference point, as a marker for hunting grounds, or to denote a food cache.

Courtesy Caps and Lenses Photography by Marietta

It is terrible luck to disassemble an Inukshuk.

The skill of building an Inukshuk was passed down from one generation to the next, with each Inukshuk having a specific purpose and meaning.

Initially, they were used mainly for navigation, to point to a good fishing spot or to the closest village where a traveller might find shelter. They later evolved to have symbolic spiritual uses, marking places of judgment and decision-making, worship and celebration.

Inuksuk is chosen as the symbol for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games.

Inuksuit has become a universal symbol of friendship, and this is why we named our entry "Ilanaaq" (ee-la-nak) — "friend" in Inuktitut — and it became the basis for the 2010 Winter Olympics logo.

Courtesy Caps and Lenses Photography by Marietta

There are four general shapes of Inuksuit.

  • The Nalunaikkutaq means "deconfuser. "It is the most basic and is made of a single upright stone placed on its end.

  • The Tikkuuti, which are pointers of different sizes and shapes. Tikkuuti can appear as a triangular-shaped rock lying flat on the ground or as valuable but straightforward arrangements of rocks appearing in a straight line, with the enormous rock at one end grading down to the smallest at the other end, indicating the direction to be taken.

  • The Tinuksummarik, or an inuksukjuaq, is noted for its more significant than average size. Easily seen from a distance, these large inuksuit act as major coordination points.

  • The Inuksuit has been used as a message centre in addition to its original purpose. You can find an arrangement of stones at their base left by a hunter for a follower.


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