An Inuksuk is a stone figure built by the Inuit of Arctic Canada, Alaska and Greenland. "Inuksuk” is the Inuktitut term used to refer to such figures. It means "to act in the capacity of a human” and is an extension of the word inuk, which translates as "a human being.” Although in English, the term is most often spelled "inukshuk,” the preferred Inuit spelling is "inuksuk.”

Inuksuk were placed upon the landscape for different reasons. The Inuit used them as hunting and navigational aids, coordination points, markers and message centers. Some inuksuk-like figures also had spiritual meaning and were the object of veneration. The Inuit also built a human-like stone figure called an inunnguaq, which means "in the likeness of a human.” This figure with a head, a body, legs and arms is not an inuksuk, even if it is often called so; its function is more symbolic than that of an inuksuk. The stone figure that appears on the new flag of Nunavut is an inunnguaq.

There are different types of inuksuit, but most often, an inuksuk is built by placing stone upon stone. The shape and size of the local material largely determine the looks of an inuksuk. Irregular igneous rocks and flat boulders are easier to work with and allow for an endless variety of forms.

Related Articles About the Inuit in The Canadian Encyclopedia

General Articles

Inuit Groups

Biographies