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Every inuksuk is unique because it is built from the stones at hand. Inuksuit can be small or large; a single rock put in place; several rocks balanced on top of each other; boulders placed in a pile; or flat stones stacked. One of these stone structures is known as an inuksuk, two are called inuksuuk and three or more are referred to as inuksuit.
An inuksuk is a strong connection to the land: it is built on the land, it is made of the land and it tells about the land. Inuit are taught to be respectful of inuksuit. There is a traditional law, which persists today, that forbids damaging or destroying inuksuit in any way. New inuksuit can be built to mark the presence of modern-day Inuit, but the old ones should never be touched. Traditionally, it is said that if one destroys an inuksuk, his or her life will be cut shorter.
Over time, the style of building inuksuit has changed. In the past, most inuksuit were built by stacking rock in a particular way, but usually not in the shape of a human. However, many modern inuksuit are built to look like human figures made of stone (with a head, body,arms and legs). In Inuktitut, these are called inunnguaq. Some Inuit believe that this type of stone figure was first built about one hundred years ago, after the arrival of the qattunaat (non-Inuit) whalers. Others say that this human look-alike originated long before this century.
All things change with time; Inuit ways are not exempt. Today, as traditional ways are changing into contemporary ways Inuit, and even non-Inuit, sometimes build inuksuit simply to mark their presence-both in the Arctic and in their travels outside of their homeland.
Nunavut Our Land
Inunnguaq Like a person
Niugvaliruluit That has legs
Nakkatait Things that fell into the water
Tupjakangaut Footprints of game
Aulaqut Makes things run away
Qajakkuviit Kayak rests
Pirujaqarvik Where the meat cache is
Inuksuk Quviasuktuq Inuksuk expressing joy
Inuksuk Anirnilik Inuksuk with a spirit
Nikisuittuq North Star
Qilangmi Inuksuk Inuksuk in the sky
Build Your Own Inuksuk
Building an Inunnguaq
Guide to Inuktitut Words