The inuksuk may have been used for navigation, as a point of reference, a marker for travel routes, fishing places, camps, hunting grounds, places of veneration, drift fences used in hunting or to mark a food cache. Historically, the most common type of inuksuk is a single stone positioned in an upright manner.
There is some debate as to whether the appearance of human- or cross-shaped cairns developed in the Inuit culture before the arrival of European missionaries and explorers.
On July 13, 2005, Canadian military personnel erected an inuksuk on Hans Island, along with a plaque and a Canadian flag, as part of Canada’s longstanding dispute with Denmark over the small Arctic island.
The markers have been erected throughout the country, including a nine-metre-high inuksuk that stands in Toronto on the shores of Lake Ontario. Located in Battery Park, it commemorates the World Youth Day 2002 festival that was held in the city in July 2002.
The mysterious stone figures known as inuksuit can be found throughout the circumpolar world. Inukshuk, the singular of inuksuit, means “in the likeness of a human” in the Inuit language. They are monuments made of unworked stones that are used by the Inuit for communication and survival.
An inukshuk can be small or large, a single rock, several rocks balanced on each other, round boulders or flat. Built from whatever stones are at hand, each one is unique. The arrangement of stones indicates the purpose of the marker.
The directions of arms or legs could indicate the direction of an open channel for navigation, or a valley for passage through the mountains. An inukshuk without arms, or with antlers affixed to it, would act as a marker for a cache of food.
The hands of many and the efforts of an entire group were required to build these massive stone sculptures. They are the result of a consensus of purpose, of focused action by a group united in its goal and labour.
The Inukshuk are the product of cooperation, teaching us that as good as our individual efforts may be, together we can do even greater things. The stones which make up the Inukshuk are secured through balance.
They are chosen for how well they fit together. Looking at the structure it can be easily seen that the removal of even one stone will destroy the integrity of the whole. So, too with a team.
Each individual in a team is necessary for the realization of the team’s purpose. The removal of even one person will result in the weakening of the structure. In the present day, the Inukshuk are a tangible symbol of communication – a universal means of speaking about our concerns for one another, and our dependence on one another.
Because of its history, the Inukshuk is an effective vehicle to acknowledge and convey enlightened management and human resource practices, the importance of personal contribution, responsible environmental leadership and an invitation to speak with one another on a higher level about what really matters.