Not too long ago, I read and discussed a poem called “Inukshuk” by Carolyn Marie Souaid from her book Snow Formations with my creative writing class. An Inukshuk is a stone figure made from slabs piled on top of one another forming a large figure that vaguely resembles a person. Inukshuks are to be found all over the Canadian arctic and serve a variety of purposes such as navigational guides, worship sites, and message centres. In Souaid’s poem, the Inukshuk speaks with its own voice: I can certainly tell you a little something about bearing up, stalwart.
How did the Inukshuk come to be? No one really knows but in the children’s picture book, The Gift of the Inuksuk by Mike Ulmer and illustrated by Melanie Rose (Sleeping Bear Press, 2004), it is a little Inuit girl named Ukaliq who creates the stone figures. She makes them wherever she lives to mark the spot of her habitation. One day her father and brothers go out on a great caribou hunt. A blizzard occurs and the men do not return. Little Ukaliq comes up with an idea on how to guide the men home using her Inukshuk. Will her plan succeed? Take out the book and have a read!
Like the Easter Island stone heads and the dolmens of northern Europe, the Inukshuk radiate an aura of mysterious human presence in the arctic landscape. Illustrator Melanie Rose has created lush paintings of that landscape, imbuing the Inukshuk with the spirit of Ukaliq — an intelligent and thoughtful girl who makes an important discovery about her stone creations. If your child is fascinated with stones and stone figures, then this certainly would be a good book to read. I hope you can find it in your library.
(Photo Credit: Inukshuk by Nunavut Development Corporation)