What is an Inukshuk?
mysterious stone figures known as inuksuit can be found throughout
the circumpolar world. Inukshuk, the singular of inuksuit, means "in
the likeness of a human" in the Inuit language. They are monuments made
of unworked stones that are used by the Inuit for communication and survival.
The traditional meaning of the inukshuk is "Someone was here" or "You
are on the right path."
The Inuit make inuksuit in different forms for a variety of purposes: as
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. Other similar stone structures were objects of veneration, signifying
places of power or the abode of spirits. Although most inuksuit appear singly,
sometimes they are arranged in sequences spanning great distances or are grouped
to mark a specific place.
These sculptural forms are among the oldest and most important objects placed
by humans upon the vast Arctic landscape and have become a familiar symbol
of the Inuit and of their homeland. Inuit tradition forbids the destruction
of inuksuit. An inukshuk (also known as inuksuk) is often venerated
as symbolizing an ancestor who knew how to survive on the land in the
traditional way. A familiar inukshuk is a welcome sight to a traveler
on a featureless and forbidding landscape.
An inukshuk can be small or large, a single rock, several rocks balanced
on each other, round boulders or flat. Built from whatever stones are at hand,
each one is unique. The arrangement of stones indicates the purpose of the
marker. The directions of arms or legs could indicate the direction of an open
channel for navigation, or a valley for passage through the mountains. An inukshuk
without arms, or with antlers affixed to it, would act as a marker for a cache
An inukshuk in the form of a human being is called an inunnguaq.
This type of structure forms the basis of the logo of the 2010 Winter
Olympics designed by Vancouver artist Elena Rivera MacGregor. It
is widely acknowledged that
this design pays tribute to the inukshuk that stands at Vancouver's English
Bay, which was created by artisan Alvin Kanak of Rankin Inlet, Northwest
Territories. Friendship and the welcoming of the world are the meanings
of both the English
Bay structure and the 2010 Winter Olympics emblem.
James Marsh - The Canadian Encyclopedia, Norman Hallendy – Inuksuit:
the Silent Messengers
About Inukshuk Gallery and Gallery Indigena
For more than 35 years, Gallery Indigena of Stratford, Ontario has been
a major centre for Canadian indigenous art. Erla Boyer left a teaching
position in the
Department of Sociology and Anthropology to open a gallery of native
With the late Norman Socha, Erla Boyer opened the first ever inukshuk gallery in Canada in Waterloo, Ontario. It is now a division of Gallery Indigena, Vancouver, Inc.
“Erla expresses a love and enthusiasm for native
people and their creative work which is reflected in
the gallery itself and in her deep involvement with the artists
of Canada's First
Nations.” - Dr. Laird Christie, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario.