Why the Ulu?

Mandy Palubicki
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Published:
June 27, 2024

Have you ever noticed the ulu in SEM’s logo?

The ulu is a traditional tool with deep cultural significance among Arctic Indigenous Peoples, particularly the Inuit. Its history dates back thousands of years and is intertwined with the daily lives and survival of these communities playing a crucial role in many daily activities, such as skinning and cleaning animals, preparing food, cutting hair, sewing clothing, and in ceremonial contexts.

The design can be traced back at least 5,000 years. Traditionally, the ulu consists of a crescent-shaped blade attached to a handle. The blade's distinct curved shape allows for efficient cutting and scraping motions. Handles were often made from bone, antler, or wood, materials that were accessible in the Arctic environment.

Despite the availability of modern knives, the ulu remains a significant cultural symbol. Many Indigenous communities continue to use and produce traditional ulus, ensuring the craft and its cultural heritage are passed down through generations.

The ulu is more than just a tool; it is a symbol of the resilience and ingenuity of Arctic Indigenous peoples. It represents a connection to ancestral knowledge and traditions, playing a vital role in maintaining cultural identity. Through continued use and adaptation, the ulu remains an enduring legacy of Inuit heritage.

We at SEM are proud of the Inuit influence that led to building an environmental consultancy based on Indigenous knowledge and representation. When opening our first office, in Nain, 2003, founding co-owner Ron Webb brought his mother’s ulu for the ribbon-cutting ceremony, with the LIA (Now Nunatsiavut Government) President cutting a ribbon of sealskin.

As we continue to diversify as a company, we want to ensure that we are able to adapt and innovate in a way that aligns with our traditions and values. The ulu grounds us to our history as an organization and to our responsibility as stewards of this earth.

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