Northern roadside attractions grace Canada Post stamps

Two eye-catching roadside attractions based north of 60 — one in the Yukon and one in the Northwest Territories — are featured on Canada Post stamps that went on sale this week.

Two eye-catching roadside attractions based north of 60 — one in the Yukon and one in the Northwest Territories — are featured on Canada Post stamps that went on sale this week.

The Signpost Forest in Watson Lake, Yukon, and the giant inukshuk in Hay River, N.W.T., are featured on limited-edition 54-cent stamps released nationwide on Monday. They are available in books of eight.

"Locals are quite enthused about it, for sure," Leslie Gonder, the acting postmaster in Watson Lake, told CBC News.

Also featured in the four-stamp set are "Mr. PG," an eight-metre tall "log man" that greets visitors to Prince George, B.C., and a massive Easter egg in Vegreville, Alta.

The set is the first in Canada Post's Roadside Attractions series, which will run over three years.

Residents stock up on forest stamps

More than 64,000 signs decorate Watson Lake's Signpost Forest, which was founded in 1942 when a homesick U.S. soldier working on the Alaska Highway posted a sign with the mileage to his hometown.

Residents in the southern Yukon town of 850 have been stocking up on the Signpost Forest stamps, said Norm Griffiths, president of the local chamber of commerce.

"I would imagine a lot will end up also saving what they have for ... the fall and Christmas seasons and say, 'Hey, notice the new stamp and it features our signpost forest,'" he said.

Gonder said some tourists are even affixing the stamps onto postage-paid postcards depicting the Signpost Forest.

Residents in Hay River held a ceremony Monday night to unveil the stamp featuring the three-metre tall inukshuk, which was built for the 1978 Arctic Winter Games.

"The inukshuk obviously is something that you don't see everywhere," said Chris Robinson, a local stamp collector.

"The one here in Hay River is a little bit out of context, in a way, because we're south of where the Inuit would normally travel. But at the same time, it was developed here for the Arctic Winter Games, so in that sense it does make sense."

'Decorative doodads'

But Norman Hallendy, who wrote a book on inuksuit — the plural form of inukshuk in the Inuktitut language — said the symbol in Hay River has little meaning to the Inuit.

"There's a term in Inuktitut that means, 'That thing which was built by some person other than an Inuk that no respecting person would build.' It just means it's a phoney," said Hallendy, author of Inuksuit: Silent Messengers of the Arctic.

"So these inuksuit-like figures that are not built by inuit for a purpose are simply decorative doodads. They are of no real importance."

Hallendy said the Hay River "inukshuk" is actually an "inunnguaq," a cairn depicting a human figure.

"The figure that looks like a little person with little arms and legs and whatnot, that everybody calls an inukshuk, is not an inukshuk. It's an inunnguaq," he said.

"Inunnguaq means 'that which is in a likeness of a person.' So you have two very different objects, although ... they continuously get mixed up. They even get mixed up by people up north."

By contrast, Hallendy said an inukshuk is something that acts in the capacity of a human being, such as giving directions to people.

Ultimately, Hallendy said the Hay River symbol and other inukshuk-like figures have become known to travellers around the world.