The Edmonton Eskimos CFL Organization will soon have a new name.
Grabbing sports headlines, the Eskimos announced on Tuesday, July 21st that they would indeed change ‘Eskimos’ which was looked at by many inuits as being controversial.
“It’s always been a different foreign word to me,” Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, an Inuk filmmaker said.
“When non-Inuit would use the word Eskimo to me, it felt like they were being deliberately confrontational- like they’re dominant, they’re in control.”
Currently, the organization hasn’t decided on a new name, and in the meantime will refer to themselves as Edmonton Football team and EE Football team.
“On one hand, I think I’ll believe it when I see it, and on the other, feeling a little emotional and happy,” Arnaquq-Baril said.
Meanwhile among the many groups and people who took offence to the team name ‘Eskimos’ was Inuk performer Inuksuk MacKay who was almost emotional when hearing about Edmonton making the long- awaited name change.
Mackay, who was with her family upon hearing the news stated, “We had a good ol’ celebration. We also had some tears.”
On the other hand, there have also been some Inuit who have strongly supported the team’s name and believed that some other Inuits were being too sensitive about it.
Last February, when the organization decided at the time to keep its team name, Nunavut cabinet minister Lorne Kusugak expressed his pride that the team decided not to change its team name ‘Eskimos.’
“Anybody else who thinks it’s an offence just, settle down. Take a Valium. Don’t be so sensitive,” Kusagak said.
Reflecting on the controversial team name Eskimos, Janice Agrios, who is board chair of the club stated that Eskimo meant, “Tough, resilient never give enough.”
She also went on to add, “It also meant community and respect. In recent years however, we’ve come to understand the concerns with the name. We know that those who originally named the team did not intend to be disrespectful or derogatory. – In fact, the opposite. They were proud to associate themselves with such a resilient northern people.”
Critics of the name ‘Eskimos’ believes the word was derogatory and a colonial-era meaning for the word Inuit.
Giving his point of view was the Edmonton mayor Don Iveson who not long after the official name changing announcement tweeted,
“Happy to see that Edmonton’s football team is changing its name. The team has a great legacy that’s beloved by fans not just in #Edmonton, but across Canada-and now it’ll have a name that isn’t an obstacle for new fans wanting to get in on that inspiring legacy.”
Not hiding her feelings was Nunavut MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq who expressed relief about the change and believes that the Edmonton football team owes a big apology.
“In some ways, a breath of relief,” Qaqqaq said. “In my mind there wasn’t even a level of respect for Inuit. There wasn’t any kind of money compensation, there was no helping the public become aware of Inuit and the challenges that we face. What is the NFL going to give back to the Inuit? I think an apology is absolutely necessary.”
No doubt, it’s a historical time period in sports, as the NFL’s Washington Redskins and Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians have broken tradition by changing their team names and now you can add the Edmonton Eskimos to that list.