Inuksuk - Eskimo Rock
Today's Snack: The Inuit
people of the Arctic ate a lot of dried meat. Obviously, their problem wasn't
refrigeration - temperatures get to 60 degrees BELOW ZERO in the winter - but
drying their meats made sense because it took up less storage space for their
nomadic lifestyle. So today, eat some beef jerky and wash it down with some
milk as fresh and cold as the Arctic.
You can make these two
With modeling clay on a
cardboard or scrap wood base
with small stones mortared
"When you look upon an old inuksuk,
you look upon more than a simple pile of stones. You look at the thoughts left
on Earth by another person."
That's what an Inuit person said about these hauntingly beautiful
stone sculptures that dot the Arctic landscape. An inuksuk (ih-NOOK-sook) is a
stack of stones that can communicate a person's knowledge, essential to survive
in Arctic. Sometimes they are shaped like a human being, but often they are in
columns or miniature walls.
Inuksuit (ih-NOOK-sweet, the plural form) were an important form
of communication for the Inuit people in the days before they had books, printed
maps, telephones, email and other forms of modern communication, which they now
An inuksuk may point out good hunting or fishing spots, warn about
a dangerous place, mark a trail, point the way for a wife who is following her
husband and days behind, orient the person toward the North Star for
navigational purposes, or indicate where meat is hidden (a "cache," pronounced
"cash," is a temporary storage place for food or other valuables).
Known in other countries as "cairns," these stacks of stones often
aided in navigation and date to the era before the Inuit language was written
down, and certainly long before airplanes, email and GPS.
The Inuit people are the Arctic people who live around the North
Pole, from Canada east to Greenland and Scandinavia, and from Alaska west to Russia.
If you can look on a globe, you'll see why these people are called "circumpolar."
They live around the Pole!
They are an ancient
people, and when Europeans came over to this continent, they erroneously named
them "Eskimos." But they are more properly called Thule Inuit, Yupik, Inupiat
They lived by hunting
whales, polar bears, seals, seabirds, and other
sea creatures, following the caribou herd migrations
across the tundra (which is a large, treeless plain in the northern hemispheres
of the world). They built igloos out of snow, and huts to live in.
Usually, they were built to aid in the herding of caribou,
indicating where the herd should be sent. Or they may mark a trail to the sea.
Those that resemble a person might be an actual representation of that person,
built by a grieving spouse after the person's death, for example. An inuksuk
might also mark a place for a religious celebration or ritual, or used as a
good-luck charm to touch before you go off hunting or fishing.
There are as many reasons to build an inuksuk as there are
inuksuit (pronounced "ih-NOOK-sweet" - the plural form of the word).
The inuksuit don't always relate to practical matters. An inuksuk
can be built simply to show joy in life.
The cultural symbol is about to become a lot more famous, as a
stylized and colorized version has been adopted as the logo for the 2010 Winter
Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Now gather your clay and a base, or
your rocks and hot-glue gun (make sure an adult is helping you with hot glue,
as it can burn your skin!). But before you build your inuksuk, ask yourself
what it is going to mean. You can copy one of these designs, or make up one
that's yours alone.
When it is ready to be shared, then
put it somewhere in your house where it can be noticed and provide some form of
guidance or expression. Then read more about the Inuit culture, one of the most
fascinating in the world.