Observing the “Inukshuk” at the Vancouver Olympic Games: Cultural Appropriation of An Orientalized Inuit Culture within the Canadian “North”

by Shengying Yao

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Canada’s identity, with the idea of the “North” as a central element, has taken the Inuit cultural artifacts to represent the country as a whole. Adopting the processes of Orientalization, cultural appropriation and iconification, the southern Canadian authorities eliminate the original context of the Inuit cultural artifacts to use as national symbols that allegedly represent the “North”. This paper looks at the idea of the “north” as vaguely defined by southern Canadians as apart of Canadian identity, while the original Inuit voice is silenced. A distinct example of this vague definition is the use of “Inukshuk” as the symbol for the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, Canada in 2010, demonstrating the southern Canadian portrayal of its identity through the listed processes in order to “other” itself internationally through cultural uniqueness, all the while interpreting Inuit cultural artifact with its own definitions of the “northern” identity.


Orientalism, Inuit, Appropriation, Canada


My name is Shengying Yao, a fourth-year international student majoring in Canadian Studies at Carleton University. I am originally from Changsha, Hunan, China and have been a student in Canada for 5 years.  I enjoy learning new languages and their corresponding culture, because I strongly believe that they are interrelated. I speak Mandarin and English fluently, and plan to become an interpreter in the future – a conduit, a mediator, and a culture broker between Mandarin and English speakers. My research interest is cultural representations of minorities in Canada, especially the Inuit culture, which has an iconic significance within the Canadian culture but is in need of accurate representation domestically and internationally.