The Inukshuk

Group size:  Any

Purpose:  To increase awareness of one’s response to another’s struggle.

Props Needed

  1. The Inukshuk– can either be copied as a handout or projected on a screen.
  2. Variation: Let participants make their own inukshuks with rocks and a glue gun.  In this instance, you would need multiple rocks and hot glue guns.

Activity Preparation

  1. Prep time needed: 5 minutes
  2. The activity can be accomplished in any setting; individual or group setting.

Time needed

  • Directions: Facilitator will read the Inukshuk story, or have a group member read the story.
  • Activity: 10 minutes, with discussion.
  • Debrief: 10 minutes; may be more with larger group size.


  • The activity can be accomplished in any setting: individual or group setting.
  • Participants may be seated in a classroom style set-up or gathered around in a circle

Activity Directions:

  • Have participants find a seat – they may be seated in theater style or round circle group.
  • If you are projecting the story on to a screen, have participants face the projected image or story.
  • Explain the purpose of the activity
  • Read Facilitators Script and The Inukshuk story


Facilitator script: “Hey everyone gather round so we can get started with today’s group. Let’s take time to listen to the story of The Inukshuk. “

The Inukshuk Story

                The Inukshuk, (pronounced in-ook-shook), are stone monuments erected in the image of humans. They are an ancient symbol of Inuit culture traditionally used as landmarks and navigation aids in the Baffin region of Canada’s Arctic. It is the Inuit word meaning “in the Image of Man.” The Inukshuk are magnificent lifelike figures of stone in human form with outstretched arms and serves as a well-known symbol of northern hospitality and friendship. Built along treeless horizons, these landmarks helped travelers navigate on land and water. They endured as eternal symbols of leadership, encouraging the importance of friendship and reminding us of our dependence upon one another. The traditional meaning of an Inukshuk was to act as a compass or guide for a safe journey. The Inukshuk, like ancient trackers, helped guide people seeking their way through the wilderness. It represents safety and nourishment, trust and reassurance. The Inukshuk guided people across the frozen tundra and gave them hope in barren places to handle hardships they encountered. These primitive, stone images showed the way ahead… pointing you in the direction you wanted to go. These beacons of the North have now been adapted as symbols of friendship, reminding us that today as in yesteryear, we all depend on one another.


One of their purposes was to communicate direction in the harsh and desolate Arctic.  As such they were a tool for survival, and symbolic of the unselfish acts of a nomadic people - the Inuit - who built them as signposts to make the way easier and safer for those who followed.


The hands of many and the efforts of an entire group were required to build these massive stone sculptures.  They are the result of a consensus of purpose, of focused action by a group united in its goal and labor.  The Inukshuk are the product of cooperation, teaching us that as good as our individual efforts may be, together we can do even greater things.


Each stone is a separate entity.  Each supports, and is supported by, the one above and the one below it.  No one piece is any more or less important than another.  Its strength lies in its unity.  Its significance comes from its meaning as a whole. What is true about the Inukshuk is true about people.  Each individual entity alone has significance.  As part of a team each of us supports, and is supported by, another.  We are united by our common goals, and together we are part of a greater whole.


The stones which make up the Inukshuk are secured through balance.  They are chosen for how well they fit together. Looking at the structure it can be easily seen that the removal of even one stone will destroy the integrity of the whole.  So, too, with a team.  Each individual in a team is necessary for the realization of the team's purpose.  The removal of even one person will result in the weakening of the structure. What holds the team together is the balance - the complementary nature of the individual skills.


The Inukshuk are a symbol of the human spirit.  They recognize our ability to succeed with others, where we would fail alone.  They remind us of our need to belong to something greater than ourselves. They reinforce our ability to commit to common goals.


The Inukshuk celebrate our working together.  They continue to remind us of our inter-dependent responsibilities to invest our efforts today, to direct a better way for all of our tomorrows. 


Take a moment to think about what the Inukshuk means to them.  What would symbolize being on the right path? (either have group process personal examples of this lesson or debrief the story)



  • What did you notice as you listened to the story?
  • What were some thoughts you had as you listened to the story as to what the Inukshuk would symbolize in your life?
  • Who are some of the people that help keep you on the right path?
  • What are some strategies you have developed to help keep you on the right path?

Recovery/Wellness Metaphor:  Like the Inukshuk, recovery’s strength lies in unity. “We can do together what we could never do apart” is the battle cry of many groups. Personal recovery depends on the unity of the group, much like one rock does not an Inukshuk make. In recovery we stand up us a guide for those that come behind us, leading the way, like the Inukshuk. Recovery like the Inukshuk is a symbol of the human spirit, If a man can fall well certainly that same man can rise up.

Role of Facilitator: Take time to debrief the story with participants, helping them explore what perceptions or actions that may keep them out of balance when they detour from their wellness path. Assist participants to explore who the people are in their life that help keep them on the right path.

Variations: this can be accomplished in individual sessions.