Landscape Perception and Way-finding in the Arctic

Inuksuit at Quaqtaq, Nunavik, Quebec. Photo by Scott Heyes, 2000.

Scott Heyes, Pasha Puttayuk and Peter Jacobs

The University of Adelaide, School of Architecture Landscape Architecture & Urban Design, in Collaboration with Professor Peter Jacobs from Universite de Montreal, Faculte de l’amenagement, ecole d’architecture de paysage and Pasha Puttayuk from Quaqtaq’s Isummasaqvik School (Kativik Regional School Board) Nunavik, Northern Quebec

This paper explores a set of drawings produced by Inuit children in Nunavik. The territory of Nunavik – formerly Rupert’s land – was incorporated within the Boundaries of Canada in 1867. The population of 9,200 Inuit is housed in 15 coastal villages in the northern reaches of Quebec, Canada. The drawings describe their systems of way-finding in a landscape that is difficult to decipher for those who do not live there. The Inuit, as with many traditional semi-nomadic societies, have developed a variety of ways in which to orientate and navigate through the vast landscape of the arctic. Students in the Kativik School Board are taught Inuktitut until the third grade, after which they learn a second language. The mother tongue language retention in Nunavik is 95% among Inuit. The School Board has developed an educational module on “survival”. One component asks students to draw orientation and navigational elements of the arctic. These drawings indicate the way in which Inuit children observe and translate the navigational features around them. They illustrate that the children are adept at rendering scale, form, distance, perspective and colour – an ability that perhaps stems from their unrestricted interaction within an infinite backyard; a playground that is a perfect breeding ground for developing acute perception skills.