What is the meaning of the poem "Inukshuk"?

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The poem "Inukshuk" by Daniel David Moses uses the image of an inukshuk to illustrate the spread of colonialism to the far north. Inukshuks were stones piled in the shape of people, traditionally built by the Inuit—the Indigenous people of the Arctic—to mark specific spots or to commemorate events. Inukshuks...

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The poem "Inukshuk" by Daniel David Moses uses the image of an inukshuk to illustrate the spread of colonialism to the far north. Inukshuks were stones piled in the shape of people, traditionally built by the Inuit—the Indigenous people of the Arctic—to mark specific spots or to commemorate events. Inukshuks have become iconic of the far north.

Using the image of the inukshuk, Daniel David Moses immediately brings to his readers' mind the traditions and culture of the Inuit people. As the inukshuk is in the shape of a person, it easily becomes personified for the audience throughout the poem. Starting from the first line, the author refers to the inukshuk with the pronoun "you", setting the stage for a conversational tone with the inanimate object. Daniel David Moses further personifies the inukshuk by giving it human emotions, such as worry.

Made of stone, which implies permanence, the inukshuk also represents the history and continuation of the Inuit way of life, even though there are foreign winds of change and gradual change in the inukshuk itself—in the third stanza, the author notes that lichen no longer grows in the inukshuk's niches. These winds are foreign, made clear by the fact that they are "from the south" and "what comes / out of their mouths comes from / nowhere you know about" (fourth stanza).

These dreams from the south bring with them a sense of foreboding. Images of hunters hunting each other and "frozen flesh" paint a harsh picture of violence, death and reversing of the natural order. In contrast to southern dreams of dominating the northern landscape, the inukshuk is closely tied to natural patterns such as the migration of animals.

Although the inukshuk continues to stand, and the southern dreams are only a wind in the air, in the last stanza the author questions the future of the inukshuk, which represents the northern way of life:

"Soon the migrations
recommence. How steady
are you?"

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