As the fog curled its way over and around the outcrop of jagged rock, the Inuit men strained their eyes to see the shoreline. Growing increasingly tired, they were anxious to be home before nightfall, and the sudden fog that had descended over them like a thick blanket made navigation difficult. Suddenly a life-like figure appeared on the rocky peninsula, its strong arm pointing to the southwest. “Almost there,” they thought as with renewed strength they steered the kayaks to the left, “almost home.”
Historically, the stone figure we know as an Inukshuk, played an important part in the lives of indigenous people. In the far North, where snow covered tundra undulates to a distant horizon and ice capped seas are cold and unforgiving, travel is difficult. The sturdy Inukshuk, built of local stone found in abundance, became a trusted marker for the traveler whether he was outbound on a hunting or fishing expedition or on his way home.
The placement of the stones is significant. An arm pointed in the direction to be followed. An angled leg directed the fisherman to an inland channel. A circular space in the middle of the Inukshuk illuminated, in the distance, other beacons for the navigator to follow. An Inukshuk with two arms and two legs firmly rooted to the ground meant there was a valley ahead and, at the end of the valley, a choice between two directions.
Yet assistance in finding one’s way was not the only reason Inukshuit were built. The placement of the stones was indicative of fundamental language, a language that has never been fully understood by present day scholars. For example, while one Inukshuk was revered as a spiritual symbol, another silently cautioned the observer to stay away. Other Inukshuit served as markers identifying caches where hunters secured their game.
Collectively, Inukshuit assisted the Inuit with the caribou hunt. Inukshuit were strategically erected in a funnel position. The women would herd the caribou towards the Inukshuit. The caribou, having weak eyesight, would mistake the stone figures for people and become confused; easy targets for the hunters at the close of the chase. Similar to how our first nations hunted the buffalo, caribou were herded into area where women and children suddenly appeared from behind the rocks to startle the animals over a cliff.
The Inukshuk, as a logo for Almost There Inc., acknowledges the need for collaboration. Inukshuit speak to us of co-operation and guidance, reminding us that as good as our individual efforts may be, together we can achieve greater goals. We need to preserve what we cherish most within our communities and improve on them for future generations to come.