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For Igloolik hunters wind direction is the most important aspect of all weather conditions. Depending on the wind, decisions would be taken on where and what to hunt. Because of its importance, hunters were always encouraged to observe and be aware of the wind.  In Igloolik, the names of the four common winds - Uangnaq, Nigiq, Kanangnaq, and Akinnaq - are one of the main ways Inuit use to understand and talk about direction. Iglulingmiut use the winds, and especially the snowdrifts made by winds, to help them navigate. But, some elders warn that winds alone should not be used for navigation because winds often change direction after a while. For this reason, experienced travellers always check wind direction and wind change by paying attention to the snowdrifts.


Inuit elders use the main wind directions as Qallunaat might use a compass. Of the four main winds that Inuit for direction - Uangnaq, Nigiq, Kanangnaq, Akinnaq - Uangnaq is the most important because around Igloolik the wind blows most often from that direction. In other words, Uangnaq is the prevailing wind. In this way, Uangnaq is like "North", but remember, its actual direction on the Qallunaat compass is closer to Northwest (NW). In winter, the Uangnaq wind makes snowdrifts called uqalurait. These drifts are easily recognizable because they are shaped like the tip of a tongue and are usually very hard. The tips of the uqalurait point towards the direction from which the Uangnaq wind blows, or approximately NW on the Qallunaat compass. 

Roll over the directional arrows and press play to hear the names of the directions of the winds. 

Uangnaq (NW)

Uangnamillu kanangnamillu akurruttijuk (N)

Uangnaqpassiktuq kanangnaup miksaanit (NNW)

Kanangnaqpassiktuq uangnaup miksaanit (NNE)

Kanangnaq (NE)

Nigiq (SE)

Kanangnaqpassiktuq nigiup miksaanit (ENE)

Kanangnaqmillu nigirmillu akurruttijuk (E)

Nigirpassiktuq kanangnaup miksaanit (ESE)

Nigirpassiktuq akinnaup miksaanit (SSE)

Nigirmillu akinnaqmillu akurruttiiuk (S)

Akinnaqppassiktuq nigiup miksaanit (SSW)

Akinnaq (SW)

Akinnaqpassiktuq uangnaup miksaanit  (WSW)

Akinnaqmillu uangnamillu akurruttijuk (W)

Uangnaqpassiktuq akinnaup miksaanit (WNW)



on the four winds.



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translation below >>> ]

"The four main winds have names. The wind going towards Ungalujat and Igloolik Point is called Uangnaq (the NW wind). The wind coming from the right is called Kanangnaq (the NE wind). The opposite wind from Uangnaq (NW) is called the Nigiq (the SE wind). In the days when people survived on what they caught, the cry of Nigiqparmaat!!! - "The wind is coming from Southeast" - would cause a sudden rush of activity as people prepared to go out hunting in the morning. To the left of Nigiq and the opposite of Kanangnaq (NE), the wind is called Akinnaq or Pinnangnaq (the SW wind). The SW wind, which does not occur very often, causes the ice near the flow-edge to drift away. People were wary of this wind... 


Watch a video of Maurice Arnatsiaq explaining the four main winds. You will hear him say many place names in the Igloolik area.

the four main winds.png


Place names referenced by Maurice Arnatsiaq in the accompanying video.


Besides the four main winds - Uangnaq, Nigiq, Kanangnaq, Akinnaq - Inuit elders have ways of describing winds that blow from directions between the main winds. For example a wind coming from a direction exactly between Uangnaq and Kanangnaq is referred to as uangnamillu kanangnamillu akurruttijuk. 



"Like a Bearded seal";

clouds that predict the wind.


Snowdrifts formed by the Uangnaq wind.



A blizzard over Igloolik.


on how the in-between winds are named.



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Q.  What is the name given to a wind blowing between Akinnaq and Uangnaq?

A.  "I have only heard of winds from that direction being referred to as Akurrutingajuq (in-between). This was used to refer to a wind coming from between Uangnaq and Akinnaq. Wind from this direction was known to blow the moving ice, aulajuq, onto the landfast ice, tuvaq. It blows the deeper moving ice towards the tuvaq so that the aulajuq eventually makes contact with the tuvaq. The Akinnaq wind, on the other hand, was said to keep the floe-edge free of moving ice and to pose a threat to those hunting on the tuvaq, at least around Akunniq and down towards Uqquat this is because along that coastline it would be blowing from the land.  


on how the in-between winds are named.


Q.  If the wind is coming from a direction between the four main winds, for instance neither from Kanangnaq or from Uangnaq, then it is called akurruttijuq. Does akurruttijuq refer to the winds coming between any of the four main wind directions?  

A.  Yes. Winds can come from any direction other than the four mentioned (Uangnaq, Kanangnaq, Nigiq, Akinnaq) and the word for this (those winds coming from a direction half way between any two main winds) is akurruttijuq.

Q.  We talked about the names of the winds, but if I were to walk, say, towards Uangnaq, in what direction would I say I was going?

A.  You would be walking in the direction of Uangnaq. If you were to walk in the direction of Akinnaq, then Akinnaq would be your reference point and you would be walking in the direction of Akinnaq. The same applies with Kanangnaq. (The four main wind directions are used as reference points.) 

Q.  If I were to go in this direction (pointing towards the Southeast) then it would be Nigiq?

A.  Yes, it would be the same, Nigiq.

Q.  Are these the names used when you were a child or are they recently invented?

A.  These are traditional names. When Inuit didn't have weather instruments and they were totally dependant on the weather, it was in their interest to pay close attention to these things (Noah Piugaattuk IE-040, 1988).


Inuit also use the names of winds when describing experiences on the land, especially experiences where direction and location are important to the story. 


talks about the caribou hunt and uses the names of winds to describe caribou movements.


"SO, I FINALLY REACHED THE TOP OF THE RISE that I was heading for. I took out my binoculars and spent the day scanning the surrounding area. Finally, caribou came into view. I spotted two of them. I kept my focus on them right through to the late afternoon when they moved off towards Uangnaq, more towards Kanangnaq. The caribou climbed to the top of a rise and finally disappeared over the other side of it. During the day, they had settled down, then got up to feed. Finally they started to walk in the direction of prevailing wind, towards Uangnaq, but more to Kanangnaq. As it turned out, they were heading for a lake where there was a trail that caribou had used from time immemorial. The caribou had spent the day around the shore, and were then returning to their roaming area" (George Kappianaq IE-439, 2000).


Winds are not always a reliable way of keeping on course when travelling. Winds often change direction, slowly. To keep on course when using winds you should frequently check the wind direction against the snowdrifts to see if there has been any change. Nowadays, when we travel on fast snowmobiles it is more difficult to use the winds for direction, because it seems that we are always driving into the wind. 


on the changing course of the winds.​


Q.  After getting directions from a knowledgeable person, was it difficult to travel to a place where you had never been before?  

A.  It depended on the weather conditions at the time we were travelling. In good weather it was not hard. It would seem as if you knew the route because we were given instructions where to go. We could recognize places along the route. We still could practice this skill, but with fast machines nowadays it always seems as if we are travelling against the wind even if we are not - so that makes things confusing very quickly. The slow speed of dog team travel made it clear as to where the wind was coming from and we did not get lost in distant places. It is the same way when you were walking in a fog when you were caribou hunting (Hubert Amarualik IE-314, 1994).


When travelling on the land or sea ice, hunters were encouraged to observe changing weather conditions, especially winds.


on the types of winds and the different ways to predict the weather.



 [Swipe right for continued

translation below >>> ]

"When the wind has been blowing from Nigiq and is about to change to the opposite direction, it is said that walrus move closer to the aulajuq. This meant that Nigiq would not be blowing for prolonged periods. If you are out on the moving ice and it starts to snow, this is also a sign that the wind will soon shift to the opposite direction. Hunters were alert to this. When it started to snow while they were on the aulajuq they were told to get back to the tuvaq, immediately. So, when it started to snow on the aulajuq, hunters were advised to be aware of the danger they might be in. In those days our elders knew a great deal about weather prediction in comparison to what we know today. They were able to determine if the wind would be prevailing for a prolonged period of time.


on the types of winds and different ways to predict weather.


"THERE ARE TWO OPPOSING WINDS namely Uangnaq and Nigiq. If the wind from either direction has blown for a prolonged period, then this will be followed by a shift of wind from the opposite direction, and it will blow with force. Therefore, after the wind has blown from the direction of the aulajuq for a period of time, it is with certainty that it will shift to Uangnaq. When this happened, hunters were warned of the dire consequences if they lingered on the aulajuq. Younger people were always taught about the sea ice" (Noah Piugaattuk IE-054, no date).


Often, in the springtime we see a puikkatuq or a mirage. When there is a puikkatuq, far away land seems closer, higher and distorted.



A mirage


on how puikkataq can be used to predict the winds.


"IN THE SPRINGTIME there are great mirages showing over short distances. Sometimes, even when the skies are clear it gets hazy and sometimes the land seems to appear farther or closer. Mirages seem to move the land. Sometimes, they say it is the winds that make the land seem close or far. Even from here, the land across the strait sometimes seems far and sometimes very close. It is the wind that is making it look that way. When there is going to be wind, the land appears to be far away and when the wind is going to calm down the land appears to be nearer. Also, when there are great mirages it means there are winds ahead of us. Sometimes, these forecasts are true and sometimes they are not. When you live outside the community you still have to observe the weather. If you don't observe the land and weather it is very hard to know what kind of conditions to expect" (Hubert Amarualik IE-314, 1994).


Traditionally, in the Igloolik area, winds were said to have spirits. Uangnaq, for instance, was a woman, Nigiq a man. George Kappianaq tells us a story about the wind spirits. From this story we learn a lot about the differences between the winds: how some winds are warmer, others stronger, and how some blow in different ways.

Watch an animation of the Niguq and Uangnaq story told by Kappianaq and illustrated by his son, artist Bart Hanna.

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