WHAT IS WAYFINDING?
People around the world use different methods of wayfinding. These are usually based on their observation and understanding of the environment in which they live. Natural landmarks such as hills, cliffs, islands, valleys, and river bends are most often used. The position of certain stars, the direction of winds, the shape of snow and sand drifts, and even the movement of animals and birds, are also used for finding direction, especially, when familiar landmarks can not be seen.
Today, traditional methods of wayfinding are often supported by using different kinds of navigational instruments. The most common of these is the magnetic compass whose needle points in a Northerly direction. Recently, more and more people are using the Global Positioning System (GPS), which receives signals from satellites to calculate your exact position. These instruments can be useful, but they have their limitations.
Around Igloolik, as in many parts of the Arctic, magnetic compasses do not work well because we are too close to the magnetic North Pole. And, while GPS is very accurate, it can be misused, break, run out of batteries, freeze up, or even be lost. So one of the first rules of safe travel on the land is to know where you are at all times without having to depend on a compass or GPS. Learning and using traditional Inuit methods of wayfinding will help you to travel confidently on the land, without having to rely on instruments.
on why so few practice the Anijaarniq tradition today.
Q. In your early life, you had to observe the weather every day, but for us we just go out in the morning and see what kind of weather it is, and nothing more than today's weather is observed. You did more than just observing the day's weather, didn't you?
A. Yes, we had to anijaaq... go out immediately after dressing in the morning. We would observe the conditions of the sky, the kinds of clouds, and the position of the stars. Today, I don't even do that anymore. I listen to the radio to hear the weather forecasts. It was different before; we had to observe the weather, watching the clouds, and wind directions all the time (Hubert Amarualik IE-314, 1994).