An inuksuk is a stone landmark or cairn built by humans, used by the Inuit, Inupiat, Kalaallit, Yupik, and other peoples of the Arctic region of North America. These structures are found from Alaska to Greenland. 

The inuksuk may have been used for navigation, as a point of reference, a marker for travel routes, fishing places, camps, hunting grounds, places of veneration, drift fences used in hunting or as a food cache. The Inupiat in northern Alaska used inuksuit to assist in the herding of caribou into contained areas for slaughter. Varying in shape and size, the inuksuit have longtime roots in the Inuit culture.

Flag of Nunavut, Canada's newest Territory, showing an Inuksuk

Crude beach inuksuk


The word inuksuk means "something which acts for or performs the function of a person". The word comes from the morphemes inuk ("person") and -suk ("ersatz" or "substitute"). It is pronounced inutsuk in Nunavik and the southern part of Baffin Island. 

A structure similar to an inuksuk but meant to represent a human figure, called an inunnguaq has become widely familiar to non-Inuit. However, it is not the most common type of inuksuk. It is distinguished from inuksuit in general.

Virtually any Canadian beach I've visited, if there are available rocks, has several inuksuks or inunnguaq dotting the landscape. I've seen them as high as me and made with shale. It took a lot of rocks, effort, time and they were kind of amazing. Nobody seems inclined to destroy them once they're arranged which is also kind of amazing. Some of them are left standing for years.

They can be huge or small and I've had several in my gardens over the years. They are simple to make and hard to mess up. Got rocks in your garden?  Create a sculpture.


A-Gran said...

I loved this. I love Nunavut. Those people are amazing.

Angie said...

Suck up.

Frimmy said...

I'm afraid I'm going to have to see a photo of an inuksuk in your garden, Angie.


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