3 inuksuit outside Toronto airport were supposed to be 1 giant inukshuk, builder says

Cape Dorset elder Egeesiak Peter, says he was a young helper for the inuksuit’s creator Kiakshuk, and the artist created only one giant inukshuk.

The stones were numbered and shipped south where they were reassembled

Officially titled “Three Inussuks,” the work is not accompanied by a credit to the artist. (Submitted by Elaine Prusky)

The problem with the three inuksuit at Toronto's Pearson International Airport, is that there are three, says one of the men who was involved in their original construction.

The three pieces caused a lot of reactions from Inuit on Facebook last month, when Elaine Uppahuak-Prusky, who was passing through the airport, took photos of the structures.

Elder Egeesiak Peter from Cape Dorset, Nunavut, says he was a young helper for the inuksuit's creator Kiakshuk, and the artist created only one giant inukshuk. 

Piita Irniq says places marked with inukshuks with raised arms designated places to be avoided. (Submitted by Elaine Prusky)

The stones were numbered and sent down to the Toronto airport, where they were put together, incorrectly as three smaller inuksuit, says Peter.

The three structures were originally installed at the airport in 1963; they went into storage and were reinstalled in 2002.

Inukshuk-builder and former Nunavut commissioner Piita Irniq said an inukshuk with raised arms, like these ones, were very rare and indicated a place to be avoided because a violent death had occured in the area. 

One giant inukshuk

"I heard on the morning news about these inuksuit and immediately thought could this be the one...I remembered building one with our late elder Kiakshuk," Peter said in Inuktitut.

Peter says he was one of the two men who helped to build a large inukshuk, commissioned by Eskimo Cooperatives, now Arctic Cooperatives, at the request of the federal government.

He says at that time the group at the cooperative did not ask questions.

Eyesiak Simiga, Kiakshuk's grandson, also helped put together the original artwork.

Simiga said he was surprised to see the inuksuit looking like they do.

"Back then, we just trusted the people who worked with us, we were happy to be working, we didn't know we were being taken advantage of," said Simiga in Inuktitut.

Both men, who are now in their eighties, say they would like to see the inuksuit returned to the original structure and would like to be involved in its reconstruction.

The Greater Toronto Airports Authority has said it is reaching out to Inuit and has already reached out to Irniq, to improve the presentation of the artwork.

Transport Canada said it would not provide information about the inuksuit before they were installed at the airport.

With files from Pauline Pemik