The original GPS

Standing stones. Cairns. Rock figures. Inuksuks are everywhere and mean everything in the Arctic.

Inuksuit convey a wide variety of information. This way. Over there. Look through to see beyond to the island. Stand beneath to feel the power. Corral the caribou. Disguised as a fox trap. Our ancestors were here, travel, hunting, fishing, food cache, spirituality, safety. Cross the river here; this is where to wait for the muskox; this is the fastest way home. 

Inuksuit are the signposts of the Arctic – one with the land, timeless markers of the places, the wildlife and the Inuit. Silent messengers for eternity – like the sun, the moon and the stars. 

Some are single stones, built by a solitary hunter. Some are massive structures built by a group or extended family in a communal effort. The roots of the inuksuk (plural inuksuit) go back through time and the elders tell us each belongs to one of the nine ages of the Inuit –  from before there were humans, to after the arrival of the white people, to within living memory. Some inuksuit are ancient Tuniqtaqaliqtillugu – “built by those who prepared the land for our ancestors”. 

Inuksuit also speak their own language to the Inuit, in precise ways that express the emotions, imagination, art and generations of knowledge of the Arctic lands. Inuksuapik are the most beautiful inuksuit. Quaviasunnirmik express joy and happiness; a sakamaktaq is a great inuksuk demonstrating the strength of the builder; tunirrutiit, little stones placed beside an inuksuk leaving a bit of one’s self behind. And there are still inuksuit whose meaning is rarely divulged to outsiders – they define the very nature of the place where they stand. 

When you come to visit with us in Nunavut you can see inuksuit everywhere. Guides can show you some where you wouldn’t think to look and tell you what they mean. When you stand beneath or beside one you will understand their power and take some knowledge back home with you. With this new understanding you may even wish to place a stone next to your favourite inuksuk and leave a small part of yourself behind - all in the spirit of the Arctic. 


Experience Inuksuit For Yourself

  • Visitors will find inuksuit all across Nunavut but of special interest is the National Historic Site Inuksuk Point (Enukso Point, Inuksugalait), near Cape Dorset on the Foxe Peninsula, Baffin Island, where you will find over 100 inuksuit – the largest collection in one place in the world.
  • Much of the above information is from the book:  Inuksuit, by Norman Hallendy, who in his 40 years of travel in the Arctic, drew on the friendship and knowledge of many Inuit elders.