Hunters rely mainly on landmarks, snowdrifts, and wind direction for keeping on track, but sometimes they also use stars for wayfinding, especially when they are hunting on the aulajuq (the moving sea ice). When stars are used for wayfinding we have to be able to identify them and know their positions in the sky. Remember that the position of stars always seem to be changing depending on the seasons and on the time of night. Throughout the night, all stars except Nuuttuittuq (the North Star) appear to move from left to right. So, when you are following a star, you have to adjust for its movement by constantly changing your direction to the left of the star.
tells us how he would a star for wayfinding.
"WHEN I AM DEPENDING on a star to take me home, I do not actually follow that star. I must follow behind the star, to the left. This is more so when you are walking. When walking you are slow and you have to stop to rest, so the stars will appear to move faster. You would then have to change your course to the left in order to head away from that particular star. When you do that you can get close to your destination" (Cain Iqqaqsaq IE-257, 1993).
describes the winter sky.
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"The stars Ullaktut usually appear towards the east when the days are short, and as the days get longer they start to appear further to the South. Above the Ullaktut there are two stars set apart from each other. When the days are shorter they will appear to be climbing and with the start of longer days they seem to descend. These two stars are known as Akuttujuuk. Further to the right there is the big star we call Nanurjuk, which is not shining like the others but looks reddish in colour. It is situated between the group of stars called Sakiattiak and the Ullaktut. To the left of Nanurjuk there are two stars, placed vertically, and another two not far away and almost identical, but lower. This group is called Quturjuuk...
Roll the mouse over the stars in the night sky here to get to know the constellations above the Igloolik area.
Press the play buttons below to hear the Inuktitut names for the stars and constellations used most often by Iglulingmut.
Nuutuittuq, the North Star, also know as Polaris, is different from the other stars because it does not seem to move. It is always in the same position. At Igloolik, Nuuttuittuq is very high in the sky and because of this, many hunters prefer other stars for wayfinding, but as Hubert Amarualik tells us below, there are times when this star is very useful.
on the North Star.
"ANOTHER IMPORTANT STAR IS NUUTTUITTUQ because it is stationary while the rest of the stars move. This star was also called Ulluriarjuaq. It was important to determine the direction of the Uangnaq wind. If you were lost, this star can tell you which direction to go because it is never moves and can lead you in the right direction. The star is also useful when there is no wind to guide you. I have used this star for navigating. You can find Nuuttuittuq easily because it is the largest star in the location where it is situated. You can also locate this star even when there is a slight overcast" (Hubert Amarualik IE-212, 1993).
When we use stars for finding our direction we must be sure that we can recognize and name the correct stars. If not, we can easily be led in the wrong direction and even into danger.
on choosing the wrong star.
"I BELIEVE IT IS A LEGEND, but there might be some truth to it as well. There were two hunters mentioned, but it is also that possibility that there might have been more involved. One of the hunters went off in the direction of Singuuriq. He never returned. The other hunter walked in the direction of Kingullialuuk (I might add that I do not know the star Kingullilaluuk), where he was able to get safely to the landfast ice, the tuvaq" (Pauli Kunnuk IE-171, 1991).
As Hubert Amarualik tells us, many stars and constellations have stories and legends behind them. According to Inuit elders, one of the purposes of these stories is to help us to remember the names and the positions of stars so that they can be of help to us in wayfinding.
on remembering the constellations.
"STARS WERE WELL KNOWN and they were named so they could be easily identified whenever the sky was clear. They were used for directional purposes as well as to tell the time. Stars could be remembered by the legends associated with them. The people before us had no writing system so they had legends in order to remember" (Hubert Amarualik IE-252, 1993).
Once you hear a legend about stars, the story stays with you and when you remember the story you can easily identify the stars. Hear Suzanne Niviattian (IE-079) tell the story in the accompanying animation.