Defending the inuksuk


Firstly, I would like to thank and congratulate Arctic Co-ops for showing a real inuksuk on it’s 2006 calendar. Besides helping to make us Inuit proud, you are helping to preserve, protect and promote Inuit culture. In saying so, I will continue to write articles and to portray Inuit culture and language accurately, the way my ancestors have taught me, through my parents and other Inuit elders.

In early 1950s, Thomas Kusugaq, and Alex Spalding, a clerk with the Hudson’s Bay Company in Naujaat-Repulse Bay, compiled Inuktitut words and defined the inuksuk as a: “traditional stone beacon usually made of piled stones on some prominent point or hill, as a guide to travelers and hunters or to give other information about game or directions.” This type of Inuksuk was made by Inuit 10,000 years ago and is the one I promote and defend. It is used by Inuit in Nunavut as a proper name. This word can be found in the Inuktitut dictionary, published by Nunavut Arctic College.

In the same Inuktitut dictionary Mr. Kusugaq defines Inunnguaq (pretend Inuk) as a “representation of a person or human being, picture, sculpture, doll, mannequin, robot, android.” The Government of the Northwest Territories used to commissioned Inuit to build Inunnguat (plural) and call them Inuksuit (plural.) When ever we see Inunnguat, with heads, arms and legs, this is what we mean.

We Inuit would appreciate if our fellow-Canadians would respect our culture and not alter our inuksuk, because it is our identity and one of our most treasured techonologies, since time immemorial. We are happy that others appreciate our symbols but we do not want the meaning taken out of our symbols. We Inuit have used the inuksuk for survival and assign a lot of value to its preservation.

I wish Inuit organizations and our elected representatives would begin talking more about copyrighting the important Inuit symbols such as the Inuksuk.

When our culture is interpreted the right way, we are stronger and have more pride. Teaching our children and our grandchildren, the accurate way, will allow them to have strength for their future, from their past. Thank you.

Peter Irniq,

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