Nunavut MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq: Inuk should decide whether Eskimos name is derogatory

Photo courtesy: Mumilaaq Qaqqaq

Nunavut member of parliament Mumilaaq Qaqqaq has provided enlightenment regarding the Edmonton Eskimos team name.

The 27-year-old New Democratic Party representative represents 25 of the 47 Inuit Nunangat communities — lands, waters and ices of the Inuit — in Canada. Qaqqaq shares her perspective on the meaning behind Eskimo.

“When we talk about the actual term Eskimo itself, when you look historically — not very many people know the dark history for Indigenous peoples in Canada. “Not many people know that the federal government at one point had given Inuit discs with numbers on them — identification discs — that sometimes said Eskimo on it, some people referred to them as dog tags,” Qaqqaq said on TSN 1260 radio Edmonton’s, The Dave Jamieson Show.

“Now you have an e-number or a ‘W’ number, identification number instead of an actual name because officials didn’t want to or didn’t put in the time and effort to learn language, to learn how to say names properly. Instead, said let’s just give everyone numbers, that makes it easier for us. There are gravesites across Canada that just say Eskimo on it — no other identification. That is somebody’s family member, that is a loved one that never got home.”

“These types of histories and with the term Eskimo, not very many people realize. Are the Edmonton Eskimos aware of this? Are they helping create awareness of this? Are they helping create or are they contributing to feeding into using a derogatory term in a way that doesn’t make sense and only benefits their side? What is the compensation for Inuit? What are they giving back for Inuit?”

Following an ultimatum from major sponsor Belairdirect, the Eskimos stated the franchise is accelerating its ongoing internal review of their team name. However, that came a week after the Esks released a statement stating the team would not be changing its moniker. The club has spent time up north consulting with members of the Inuit community and found there “was no consensus” among Inuit regarding their name.

“They say they’ve done surveys, but it’s with their key stakeholders. How many of those people are Inuit? How many of those season ticket holders are Inuk? That is no place for a non-Inuk and non-Indigenous person to decide whether or not the term is derogatory. That is for Inuit and Inuit alone,” Qaqqaq said.

“It’s simply no place for a CFL team who makes millions of dollars. Is that the reason why the won’t change their name? How much money is it going to take to rebrand? Maybe the money is outweighing the respect to realize that ‘no consensus’ means change the name and doesn’t give you an excuse to keep it.”

The Eskimos have come under increased scrutiny since the NFL’s Washington Redskins announced the team will reassess its name. That followed withdrawals of prominent sponsors, including Nike removing all team apparel from its websites and stores. FedEx, the title sponsor of Washington’s home field, also requested a name change.

“When we see consultation has been done, and is ongoing, and we’re going to ramp it up, to me that’s just another excuse, that’s just another loop hole. Very well known Inuit have brought this up continuously for years. Our leaders in the territory, Inuit Nunangat, did not work so hard to get nationally recognized as Inuit instead of Eskimo for no reason. There are just so many glaring issues with it and it’s time to change — have that respect,” Qaqqaq said.

“Can we say the Edmonton Caucasians? Can we say the Edmonton Blacks? Do they have any Inuit on their team? Why would you call yourself a group of people you’re not? The club has not been in touch with me. We are working on some correspondence for them. I think they are fully aware of my stance. As a member of parliament, I look forward to hearing from them.”