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Dead medium: The Inuit Inuksuit
From: (Ian Campbell) (((I've been wanting to find something on the Inuksuit, I

got this from my favourite science show.

I wish I had more info (like an illustrated vocabulary),

but this is a start. == Ian Campbell)))

Source(s): (the magazine show of the Discovery Channel Canada), May 28, 1996.

(((Judy Halliday interviews Norman Hallendy, Founder, Tukilik Foundation.)))

Intro: Deciphering the Inuksuit, how stone relics signify everything from good hunting to sacred ground. (...) Some of them are more than 5000 years old, but the Inuit are still building them today. (((bruces remarks: apparently the Inuksuit, though ancient and pre-literate, is still a living medium, then.)))

Similar stone structures can be found all over the world. Norman Hallendy has spent [30] years learning about arctic life including the inuksuit from Inuit elders. Inuk 1

Judy: (...) Everytime you see pictures of the arctice you see these magnificant stone structures that (((sometimes))) look like men. What exactly are these structures?

Norman: They fall into various groups, there are a group of them which are used as hunting instruments. (...) They were put up in lines and occasionally a woman or kid along with them (((because there were not that many hunters))), and they'd frighten the caribou (...) and they'd be driven into a lane to be picked off by hunters. That was (((the most))) important function of the inuksuit.


And then there were others that were terribly important in terms of travel. You could actually learn a series of inuksuit, the shape of them, where they were situated and what time of the year they should be observed, you could learn a whole sequence andf travel great distances without ever having been to that place. I knew of an old guy who travelled something like 900 miles without ever having been there based on a song his father had taught him about the Inuksiut and the landmarks along the way. Inuk 2

Judy: So it's like having mileposts or street signs except that the inuksuit are telling you the story.

Norman: Yes, you could look at Inuksuit in general as messages. You see this is the beauty of them, what they are is messages regardless of [their] function, they convey some kind of information to you if you know how to read them.

Judy: (...) Are there ever any kind of religious or spiritual messages?

Norman: (...) I'll generalize here, they could be in two ways, if the Inuksuit was quite a beautiful looking structure, and built a very long time ago, like a thousand years ago, believed to have been built by the Tunik (...) what the Inuit call the "other people", these were considered objects of veneration, so it's interesting where a functional object over time can become almost a religious object (...) Inuk 3

Judy: Would anyone ever build one to honour somebody?

Norman: Oh yes, that did happen, that happened in individual cases where an inuksuit could be built to commemorate a major event, or a major happening by a powerful person a camp boss or a shaman for example. I was travelling with one old chap, that (...) before his uncle died, he asked his son to build an inukshuk to represent the spirit that he had as a spirit helper, as a shaman. And therefore there were these strange little opbjects that were built on the landscape that were actually spiritual representations. There's another case, this occured early in this century, where there were a group of women out hunting (...) the ice broke, they were carried out to sea, and they were crying out to their husbands who could not help them, and finally they died out at sea. The men were so heartbroken by this tragedy that they built an inuksuit for every woman (...) so that her soul would have a place to come back to. I asked the question of one of the elders, should these really be called Inuksuit, the answer I got is that you should really refer to them as Sakabluni (((sp?))) ["stones which have spiritual significance"]. Inuk 4

Judy: How did you find out that they (...) carried so many messages?

Norman: Well, I went up to the arctic (...) and kept asking question about everything that came into my mind. Rather than study the people or the culture, I was trying to understand things, from the point of view of how do I respond to the arctic environment. (...) Over time what I really gathered up were the old words, for objects for places or events and happenings. Because I was a very strong believer in semantics, not yours, but theirs. (...) If a person really explained to you in their terms what you were looking at, you might see it from a different perspective.

One more Inukshuk