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Inuksuit - Signposts of the North

An "inuksuk" (pronounced "in-uk-shuk") is a monument used for communication and survival that is usually made of un-worked stones.

Inuksuit (plural) have been used by the Inuit people as guides and markers for special places in the Arctic, marking trails, caches of food, nearby people, or the migration routes of caribou.

Such a marker is of considerable importance on a landscape that could be otherwise featureless or constantly changing because of ice and snow. These "signposts" were essential for survival and Inuit tradition forbids their destruction.

An inuksuk-like monument in the form of a human being is called an inunnguaq (an imitation of a person). These seem to have been a recent development and many inunnguat (plural) are being built by non-Inuit but are incorrectly called inuksuit.

When the people of Nunavut created a flag for Canada's new territory in 1999, an inuksuk was chosen as a symbol because of its importance as a guide to people on the land and a marker of sacred and special places. The inuksuk has now become a prominant symbol of the Arctic and is featured on t-shirts and souvenirs.

Recently, a design resembling an inunnguaq (mistakenly called an inuksuk) was chosen as the symbol for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Canada.

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