Inuit Not Amused by Vancouver Olympic Symbol

Now that the parade of ethnic stereotypes that was the “original dance” portion of the Olympic ice dancing competition has swizzled to a close, we can focus on the real issue: the inukshuk. You know, the traditional Inuit rock piles turned grinning emblem of the Vancouver Games? Or is that the love child of Grimace and the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man? “In Vancouver, the official inukshuk logo can be found on everything from key chains and T-shirts to rain gear for dogs,” writes the awesomely named Phred Dvorak in the Wall Street Journal. “Similar rock piles have inspired unofficial products—from $6 bottle openers to the Inukie Cookie designed by the creator of the Vancouver 2010 logo, which lets you build your own inukshuk out of maple-flavored shortbread.” Nothing ignites controversy faster than edible riffs on cultural heritage. The Inuit use inukshuit (the plural of inukshuk, which means “something that substitutes for a person”) as monuments, so they’re less than thrilled to see them popping up on playing cards and doggie slickers.

Some Inuit elders, meanwhile, protested that the humanoid design isn’t authentic. Others fret the original meaning is being lost. “Inuit are concerned that inukshuk are being used everywhere without having much meaning or respect to Inuit,” says [Luke Suluk, president of the Inuit Heritage Trust].

All that hasn’t damped the appeal, in part because an inukshuk is pretty easy to make. Touchstone Site Contractors Inc., an Ontario provider of commercial landscaping and security fencing, had never made a stone sculpture before it landed the contract for the Niagara Falls inukshuk. Office manager Brandon Bradley whipped the design up himself on AutoCAD. “As long as you keep it somewhat proportional—that’s it,” he says.