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Gold Medal

2001 Recipient - Norman Hallendy

Studies in Stone

Photo: David Barbour
NORMAN Hallendy smiles wryly and shrugs when asked about the symbolism of an inuksuk he assembled in his garden, high on a ridge near Carp, Ont. ‘It simply means ‘I am thankful,’’ he says. He points to another and explains how Inuit would have left offerings by it, hoping for good fortune. Nestled at its base is a toonie, placed there in jest by a visitor.

The numerous inuksuit in Hallendy’s backyard speak to his decades-old love affair with the Arctic and his fascination with the stone figures Inuit have used for millennia as navigational tools, objects of veneration and markers for good hunting and fishing grounds.

For his role in uncovering and interpreting the mysteries of inuksuit, Hallendy has been awarded The Royal Canadian Geographical Society’s 2001 Gold Medal, which recognizes significant achievement in the field of geography.

The 69-year-old retired public servant first encountered the rock structures in 1958, while travelling to Baffin Island for the Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources.

He has been returning to the Arctic to interview elders for 40 years and has become the leading authority on inuksuit outside the Inuit community. His research and photographs are featured in a Canadian Museum of Civilization exhibit that opened in 1994 and has since toured Canada, Europe and South America. His work has also been compiled into a book, Inuksuit: Silent Messengers of the Arctic (see review, Canadian Geographic Mar/Apr 2001).

Hallendy often returns to the Arctic, which, he says, continues to fill him with the wonder of a child.

— Monique Roy-Sole

For more on Hallendy’s work, see ‘Places of Power’, Canadian Geographic Magazine, Mar/Apr 1997

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