For some time now there has been concerted effort to change the name of the NFL’s Washington Redskins.
Well, now with the Edmonton Eskimos due to play in Sunday’s Grey Cup (the Canadian Football League’s equivalent of the Super Bowl, only it’s been around for more than 100 years) against the Ottawa RedBlacks, there is now a call for the Eskimos to change its name. In an op-ed in the Toronto Globe and Mail, Natan Obed, President of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (which is Canada’s largest Innu organization), claims the Eskimos name imposes colonial terminology upon them:
The word Eskimo is not only outdated, it is now largely considered a derogatory term. It has never been our term. When Inuit mobilized in the 1970s to protect our rights, we started using the term Inuit to describe our people because that is our way of describing ourselves. No other society has a right to impose their terminology upon us.
We have overcome many colonial policies towards our society and culture to stand as proud Canadian Inuit today. There are no more residential schools that take our children away from our parents at the age of five. We have the right to vote. We are not forced to relocate where we live upon the whims of government. At one time in Canadian society, these things were determined by others to be what was best for Inuit – or, should I say best for Eskimos.
How exactly are the Edmonton Eskimos imposing their terminology on the Innu? One can certainly object to past Canadian government policies where it concerned people Indigenous to the Northern Arctic. But the Edmonton Eskimos are a private organization that have nothing to do with the Canadian government or its policies – past, present or future. Despite the fact, Obed gives the Eskimos a power they do not possess, he insists the term Eskimo is “an enduring relic of colonial power.”
The CFL football team does not honour our culture, our history, our present, or our future. The name is an enduring relic of colonial power. That force enabled Indigenous identity to be appropriated and redefined as a branding tool for non-Indigenous entertainment, during a time when our children were taken from us, our lands were being developed without our consent, and we were being moved around as human flagpoles for Canadian Arctic Sovereignty.
Indigenous people deserve to be treated with respect and as equals. In the spirit of the enormous amount of work that has been done in Canada to achieve true and lasting reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians, I call on the owners of the Edmonton franchise to change the team name to a non-Indigenous moniker.
Again, what did the Edmonton Eskimos have to do with children being taken from the Indigenous people of the Northern Arctic or their land claims? A couple of years back, I wrote about the campaign against the Redskins and made a point of mentioning the Eskimos:
Changing the name of the Eskimos isn’t exactly high on the priority list of most Aboriginal people I have talked to over the years. Quite frankly, changing the name of the Redskins, Eskimos, or any other sports team with a Native American nickname only aggrandizes the self-importance of the Left while doing precious little to solve the ongoing social problems of Aboriginal People in Canada and the United States.
Let me put it another way. If the Eskimos weren’t playing in the Grey Cup this weekend would Obed have even bothered writing his op-ed?