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Inukshuk by the Shore, Brier Island

David Davies

Weymouth, Canada

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An Inukshuk by the water in the grounds of the Brier Island (North) (Grand Passage) Lighthouse, Nova Scotia, Canada.

(Wikipedia) An inuksuk (plural inuksuit) (from the Inuktitut: ᐃᓄᒃᓱᒃ, plural ᐃᓄᒃᓱᐃᑦ; alternatively inukshuk in English or inukhuk in Inuinnaqtun) 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. This region, above the Arctic Circle, is dominated by the tundra biome and has areas with few natural landmarks.

The inuksuk may have been used for navigation, as a point of reference, a marker for hunting grounds, 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.

Historically the most common type of inukshuk is a single stone positioned in an upright manner. An inuksuk is often confused with an inunnguaq, a cairn representing a human figure. There is some debate as to whether the appearance of human- or cross-shaped cairns developed in the Inuit culture before the arrival of European missionaries and explorers.

At Enukso Point on Baffin Island, there are over 100 inuksuit. The area has been designated one of Canada’s national historic sites.

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 (see Inuit phonology for the linguistic reasons). In many of the central Nunavut dialects, it has the etymologically related name inuksugaq (plural: inuksugait).

Despite the predominant English spelling as inukshuk, both the Government of Nunavut and the Government of Canada through Indian and Northern Affairs Canada are promoting the Inuit-preferred spelling inuksuk.

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

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