First Peoples > An Aboriginal Presence > Markers on the Land

An Aboriginal Presence

Markers on the Land


The inuksuk (plural: inuksuit), stones piled to look like a human being, has been in the Arctic for thousands of years. Inuksuit were used to mark trails and food caches. Inuit also built them in double rows to direct caribou herds during the hunt.

Courtesy of Nunavut Tourism
Inuksuk - Courtesy of Nunavut Tourism


Trails connected river fishing grounds with mountain meadows, led through forests, and from one Aboriginal people's country to another. Many Aboriginal trails are now city roads and highways. In northwestern British Columbia traders carried boxes of eulachon grease along a series of interconnecting trails.


The sky was home to people who had lived on the earth, and Aboriginal people told and retold their exploits in story. Like people in other parts of the world, Aboriginal people named stars and constellations, and the map of the sky was a memory theatre.

Boulder Configurations

A "medicine wheel" at Moose Mountain in southern Saskatchewan. In the Plains of Canada and the United States, Aboriginal people made installations using boulders, aligned with the summer solstice and other astronomical events. Some may be thousands of years old.

Drawing by John A. Eddy, from Solstice-Aligned Boulder Configurations in Saskatchewan, by Alice B. Kehoe and Thomas F. Kehoe, National Museum of Man Mercury Series, Canadian Ethnology Service Paper no. 48, Ottawa, 1979, p. 7.
Boulder Configurations - By John A. Eddy

Stop Sign in Inuktitut

Today, there are other markers on the land. A stop sign in Nunavut, where Inuktitut is one of the three official languages.

Courtesy of Nunavut Tourism
Stop Sign - Courtesy of Nunavut Tourism


Located on an island in Hudson Strait, off the northern coast of Quebec, this petroglyph was made by Palaeo-Eskimos, who lived in the region before the arrival of Inuit. It was probably carved about 1,000 years ago. The meaning of the images is now unknown. Petroglyphs, "rock writing," are images incised on rocks. They are found across Canada, and record sites of spiritual significance and historic events.

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