Former National Hockey League player Jordin Tootoo believes the Edmonton Eskimos need to be honest and consult the Inuk people about their team name.
Tootoo has been contacted by many people and media outlets asking his position around the controversy surrounding the name of the Edmonton Eskimos CFL franchise. He was the first ever Inuk NHLer and first person from Nunavut to play in an NHL game. The 37-year-old released a statement on Twitter:
My position is this.
We should all understand what the term means to the Inuk people. My father’s generation connects this term to describe who they are. He would refer to himself as an Eskimo. My generation refers to itself as Inuk. What is important to me is that people understand this. And, when referring to the Inuit people to the Inuit people, they respect that we refer to ourselves today as Inuk.
I understand there are names of sports teams that bring back feelings of oppression for people and I can see why those names should be changed.
So, this makes me ask the question, does the term Eskimo for the Edmonton franchise bring back feelings of oppression for Inuk people? For me, it does not. That is NOT a reason to keep the name. There could be others for whom it does create those feelings. But for me, it does not.
I encourage the franchise to explain why they chose the name Eskimos in the first place. Was it racially charged, or, was it because of admiration for the ability of the Eskimos to thrive in cold climates, for their mental and physical toughness and for their resilience? My point is that context really does matter. And, they need to be honest with themselves and with the public. Truth goes a long way.
In closing, the name of the Edmonton Eskimos is not objectionable to me. This does not mean they should keep the name. But, I think the discussion should be around how the Inuk people feel about it. Some might feel pride. Some might feel hurt. Either way, that is the group that should be consulted.
When Tootoo was 13 years old he moved from Rankin Inlet, Nunavut to Spruce Grove, Alberta — approximately 30 minutes west of Edmonton — and played there until he was selected in the Western Hockey League draft by the Brandon Wheat Kings. He played 13 NHL seasons, eight with the Nashville Predators.
While growing up his father Barney taught him the traditional Inuit lifestyle and also how to play hockey. Tootoo has a unique perspective having grown up in Nunavut and living essentially in Edmonton during his time as a Bantam AAA player.
The Eskimos stated the franchise is accelerating its ongoing internal review of their team name and Tootoo has eloquently laid out a proper way for the team to proceed.