Edmonton CFL team decides on ‘Elks’ as new name

Change prompted by years of criticism of its old name, the Edmonton Eskimos

Despite a new name, the Edmonton Elks will continue to use the same colours and double E logo as before. (File photo)

By Nunatsiaq News

Edmonton’s Canadian Football League team has a new name: The Edmonton Elks.

“Re-branding a team is hard,” Chris Presson, president and CEO of the football club, said in a Tuesday news release. “Re-branding a team with 100 years of history is even more challenging and we worked hard to meld that history with something new and meaningful.”

The change is prompted by years of criticism of the team’s previous name, the Edmonton Eskimos. For the past year, after the team promised to change its name, it was simply known as the EE Football Team.

In a short-lived online survey last year, the team said it took its original name to acknowledge the “perseverance and hardiness of Inuit culture.”

But in recent years the name has caused substantial debate.

In 2015, Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, called for the team to change its name, saying, “The colonial legacy of naming is about power and control.”

“The issue of Inuit being used as a sports team mascot matters, because this is the way this legacy continues to play out in popular culture,” he wrote in an op-ed.

Obed’s calls eventually led to the club conducting a review of its name that it described as “an extensive year-long formal research and engagement program,” which included meetings with Inuit and community leaders in Iqaluit, Inuvik, Yellowknife and Ottawa, as well as a telephone survey conducted among Inuit across Canada.

In early 2020, following that review, the team announced that the name would remain unchanged.

The news was welcomed by some, including Nunavut MLA and cabinet minister Lorne Kusugak, who spoke of the decision during the winter sitting of the territorial legislature last February.

“I’m proud that the Edmonton Eskimos will keep the name,” he said.

“Everybody else who thinks it is offensive, settle down, take a valium, and don’t be so sensitive.”

In the months that followed, the deaths of Black and Indigenous people at the hands of police in both the United States and Canada spurred a renewed call for the removal of emblems of both countries’ colonial pasts.

This time, calls to change the name also came from some of the team’s major sponsors, including Belairdirect, which threatened to pull their support if the football team didn’t reconsider its name.

On July 21, after months of consultation and public pressure, the franchise announced it would drop its name.

In November 2020, the team asked the public for help to find the best name for the club.

After outreach and surveys, it was found that that the name “Elk” was popular.

From there, the franchise consulted linguistics experts from the Oxford Dictionary and the University of Alberta’s linguistics department before deciding on the name “Elks.”

The 2021 CFL season is set to begin in August and will mark the debut of the new name on field.

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(35) Comments:

  1. Posted by What is EDUCATION, and Social Economic Infrastructure? on

    This certainly raises concern how Indigenous are poorly represented by Politicians nonetheless Nunavut MP, and ITK! When priorities should be considered that lack’s:

    – Housing
    – Heath Care
    – Education
    – Infrastructure

    This certainly should be part of priority lists on with MP, and ITK Office. Don’t you think??? What is ESKIMO, it’s just another word! It’s priceless, and it gives dignity and pride to ESKIMO’s! regardless! Sad, the Edmonton Eskimo’s had to changed it’s name! Sad! This certainly reflect on poor leadership roles, and its principal’s.

    • Posted by anonymous on

      I totally agree, Housing, Health Care, Education and foremost people who are homeless should be on a priority list. KIA, NTI to name a few tend to go to meeting, more so they discuss mining issues. I’ve never had any issues with the name ‘Edmonton Eskimos’, yes Eskimo is just another word. Too bad Edmonton Eskimos had to change their logo, not amused at ITK president, my 2 cents.

      • Posted by bob on

        Housing and more urgent issues ARE a priority. It is completely feasible that the bigger ticket items are being handled at the same time as the name change. It is possible to multitask. And when you think about how much work went into this it boils down to a letter probably written in a couple hours SIX years ago. Somehow people don’t get that this has not been an ongoing aggressive campaign where it has replaced priorities like housing and healthcare. Consistently referring to a letter to create awareness literally takes seconds. The issue of the word Eskimo remains debatable but that is not the issue. The issue is naming a sports team after a race of people. It dehumanizes Inuit and is one of a thousand barriers to getting any sort of reconciliation. How can you properly promote the human rights of Indigenous people when you have idiot fans dressing up like Eskimos and chanting at a football game and say that’s okay? And for the comments by Lorne about being too sensitive, it’s not about that either. I’m not holding my heart, deeply hurt by the name. It’s a stupid name for a sports team and to have pride in it is equally stupid. The change does more benefit towards the attitude of Inuit than it does to keep it.

        • Posted by Me Eskimo on

          Cancel culture doing what it does best. You say you’re helping eskimos bob while cancelling what we enjoy and calling us stupid for what we enjoy. And you still haven’t convinced us how you’re helping.

    • Posted by Oh Ima on

      ITK has made the issues priority, but people chose to defend a real racist and out dated terms. Go to their website look it up.

  2. Posted by Disappointment on

    Now lets go after all the businesses in Nunavut with the same vengeance that have Eskimo in their name… What no takers. There are at least a half dozen alone in the phone book that use that… What a double standard Nunavut people have, won’t even fight the names that their own people use in their own communities – EPLS anyone?.. Get on it or not???

    • Posted by Eskimo Coops on

      Along with Eskimo Point Lumber Supply:
      West Baffin Eskimo Coop
      Paleajook Eskimo Coop
      Hall Beach Eskimo Coop

  3. Posted by Manapik on

    I like Eskimos better, I quit watching football no more favourite cfl team😢😭

    • Posted by Ian on

      Best logo in the CFL,and always will be go ELKS,

    • Posted by Eskimos Fan on

      Once an Eskimo.
      Always an Eskimo.

  4. Posted by Inuit Colonialism on

    As Natan has so strongly adopted the position that “the colonial legacy of naming is about power and control” it might be a good time for Inuit to confront their own legacy of colonialism, including the appropriation of history and names.

    Does anyone ever wonder at the origins of the name for ‘Toonik Time’? Or, when Alethea Arnaquq-Baril named her 2011 film about traditional tattoos after the popular style known as ‘TUNNIIT’ that this too is a representation of a foreign people conjured in the minds of those who colonized their lands and displaced them?

    Will Natan confront the most egregious example, where ITK in its own distorted writing of history has stolen the long historical legacy of the Tuniit to legitimize the Inuit occupation of their lands?

    Consider the following:

    In the above history it is claimed that “For 5,000 years, the people and culture known throughout the world as Inuit have occupied the vast territory stretching from the shores of the Chukchi Peninsula of Russia, east across Alaska and Canada, to the southeastern coast of Greenland.”

    It goes on to say ““The Sivullirmiut are our earliest real ancestors, but many stories can be told about another group of people living in our land that we call Tunnit.”

    The Tuniit and the Sivullirmiut are the same people. And the claim that they are ancestral to the Inuit is a lie… Inuit (First Thule) moved into the lands within what is now Canada and Greenland for between 850 to 1,000 years. Both DNA evidence and Inuit oral history are clear that these were a distinct people, unrelated to one another. Yet, ITK allows this mythological telling of history because they stand to gain from it politically.

    If you agree with Natan that Inuit should not be mascots, surely you would also agree that the representation of the Tuniit people should cease to be used as a mascot for Toonik time?

    • Posted by Quick Edit on

      The above should read:

      “Inuit (Thule) moved into the lands within what is now Canada and Greenland between 850 to 1,000 years ago.”

      Thank you to Nunatsiaq for allowing this to be heard. In the spirit of the times it is only right that this legacy be confronted, named for what it is–colonialism–and acknowledged.

    • Posted by Truth Matters on

      Preach! Tell it like it is!

    • Posted by Yep on

      And as a matter of fact Vikings visited and occupied the Canadian north around the same time period.

      • Posted by Helluland on

        Indeed, in fact there is compelling evidence that the Norse set up a trading post on the south tip of Baffin Island where they traded with the Tuniit (Dorset) prior to the arrival of the Thule / Inuit into the Baffin region. For those interested look up Nanook / Tanfield Valley and archeologist Patricia Sutherland.

        It is also believed that the Norse continued to trade with the Thule here after they had displaced the Tuniit. Some speculate that the pursuit of these iron sources was one of the main drivers of the Thule migration into North America and Greenland in the first place. While for the Norse the main prize was walrus Ivory and furs.

        There is a Nature of Things documentary on this called ‘The Norse: An Arctic Mystery’ (2012) with David Suzuki.


    • Posted by George on

      True, it should be corrected to say that modern Inuit came to occupy the Arctic 1000 years ago and not 5000. But to say that Inuit colonized is far from accurate. Firstly, any interaction between the two cultures is extremely rare and there are only a few oral accounts of observations from afar. To colonize is to exert social/political control over another group. This would have been two hunter gatherer societies peacefully using the Arctic possibly with a brief overlap of land use. And if you want to use archeological facts it would be said that they never met…https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorset_culture
      It’s thought that by the time Inuit came to the Arctic the Dorset were near extinct due to an inability to adapt to a warming period coupled with no specialized sea mammal hunting techniques or tools. Why is it that people will quickly try to downplay or divert an act of assimilation or colonization on people by saying “well you guys did it too”??? That said, the honorary Tuniq is evolving into something in poor taste and at the least just dated. But it hardly has the colonial connections that you seem to think it has.

      • Posted by Inuit Colonialism on

        Thanks for responding George.

        Granted, while the archeological evidence suggesting interaction between the two peoples might not be suffice, I disagree that it can be read to suggest, definitively (which I think you have done) that they never met. Consider that much of the overlap between the two is on the exact same sites, some dated very closely in overlap which suggests that they may indeed have met, and that the Tuniit were possibly displaced (my source here is Ancient People of the Arctic, by Robert McGhee—unfortunately my copy is lent out, but I can find the precise place name if you wish).

        The most compelling evidence, however, comes from Inuit oral history which not only suggests that they did, meet but that the Thule / Inuit pushed the Tuniit off their lands.

        Consider the following:

        “The Tunit were a strong people, and yet they were
        driven from their villages by others who were more
        numerous, by many people of great ancestors; but
        so greatly did they love their country, that when they
        were leaving Uglit, there was a man who, out of
        desperate love for his village, harpooned the rocks
        and made the stones fly about like bits of ice.”

        Ivaluardjuk, Igloolik, 1922

        Also consider the following from Canadian Geographic:

        “By roughly 1200 AD, the Dorset had vanished, killed off in warfare with the Thule or unable to survive the hardship occasioned by competition for resources with the invaders. (Inuit oral traditions tell of how the Dorset were a gentle people without bows and arrows, and thus easy to kill and drive away.)”


        Also, you stated “Why is it that people will quickly try to downplay or divert an act of assimilation or colonization on people by saying “well you guys did it too”???

        I believe you’ve mischaracterized my intent. Nothing about my comment attempts to do this.

        Also, you suggest that “This would have been two hunter gatherer societies peacefully using the Arctic.” This is an untenable assumption that is probably grounded more strongly in the kind of romanticism meant to distinguish indigenous cultures from ‘westerners’ than it is in reality.

        The Thule were a warrior culture, they used Mongolian bows and Lamellar Armour and were involved in a network of trade for weapons with Asia. They were able to hunt larger prey and thus sustain larger populations. They had better hunting and transportation technology and were more mobile. They were also conquerors who drove the last Norse from Greenland.

  5. Posted by Truestory on

    In Kinngait. They have “Eskimo” Co-op don’t they? The irony of it all.

    • Posted by JOHN ELL on

      ITK and Nunavut Member of Parliament should focus on constitutional issues that affect Inuit such as the vote in the House last week when Blocque Quebecois almost walked away when they introduce a motion in the House. This was blocked by a lone independent MP from British Columbia which save this country. Nunavut can thank her for keeping her eyes and ears to the ground. All the Party members were asleep.
      TAGURULUK. Yep, ITK need to be quick with due diligence of who we are as Inuit.


  6. Posted by Elkies Fan on

    I guess if a bunch of Edmonton Elks fans get together now they will be called a group of Elkies. lol
    Dumbest change for no good reason ever.

  7. Posted by Thomassie Mangiok on

    The logo looks really nice and I think the name is pretty awesome for a football team.

    • Posted by eskimo joe on

      I hate this new name the eskimos have now. Is there no better cause than the names out there? What’s a new cause is going to come out, the ufo s?

      • Posted by Eskimos Fan on

        ….or whether hot dogs can be mixed with kd…

  8. Posted by oh no on

    Oh no, our only identity is now gone, how come the younger generation is always offended by nothing, Eskimo is our identity the world thinks Eskimos are tough people living in harsh world, no other culture can do that, Wow it is just a word people a Cree word that means raw eater which is what we are, I hope our politicians would look are more serious issues.

    • Posted by Karboneater on

      Wow, really,, from the mighty hunter to the hunted, not gonna end well for the Elks.

  9. Posted by articrick on

    I hope obed feels like he’s done something worth while cause now. He just wasted Hugh amount of time and effort for something personal. Do I feel better for what’s he’s done? No, I actually feel pissed that he chose to go for this other then what could make a real impact on inuits lives. RESIGN OBED

  10. Posted by Toonik’s Grandfather on

    Few people with personal agenda ruined their parents and greatparents legacy, they were proud Eskimos. Are you happy now?

  11. Posted by Ned Flanders on

    There was this Inuk from Kivalliq(?) who played for the Edmonton Eskimos.

  12. Posted by inukjuakmiuk on

    “this is not just about Inuit or Eskimo, it is about choice, ᐃᓅᔪᖓ, I am Inuk-we chose that not Eskimo-ᖑᔪᖓ, not choosing-being labelled is oppression. Inuit can choose what we want to be called, non Inuit can not choose what to call us.”

    — Susan Aglukark

    • Posted by Who really choses? on

      But why does Susan and other Inuit who have a social platform assume to speak for all Inuit? To say “we chose” is to pretend that your own choice is aligned with the majority around you, but we will never really know if that was the case here. Personally, I doubt it was.

      • Posted by Subterranean Homesick Alien on

        What I would like to know is why our local media never asks these questions? They are always so eager to align themselves with our public thinkers and whatever their cause célèbre might be. No push back, no honest analysis of reality; which is really just to say that many Inuit supported the former team name, in fact it may very well have been a majority. But their “voices” were silenced in your rush to ingratiate yourselves to the luminaries who appointed themselves as authorities on this.

    • Posted by Word games abound on

      I don’t chose to be called Qallunaat, so when I am referred to in these terms am I being oppressed?

      Oppression has become so easy to claim in recent years. It’s a veritable buffet of options.

  13. Posted by Funny and Sad on

    It’s funny and sad that you can’t see how offensive it is to have a sports team named after an outdated name. Think they named themselves to honour Inuit? That’s the laughable part. Read the history of how they named themselves, or, I should say, how they were named this by Calgary who did it as a joke and a slur to Edmonton. The origins of the name was intended as a racial slur that all you down voters can’t see that you’re perpetuating. That’s the sad part.

    And it’s possible to care about housing and health care and education at the same time as caring about ending the use of an outdated and racist word, or can you not walk and chew gum at the same time?

    • Posted by Pork Pie on

      First off, I am not an Inuk and admit to no personal position on the use of the term. On the whole I know way more Inuit who were in favour of the former club name and resent the change. I am not speaking for them, but reflecting on the arguments and the logic that seems aligned against them.

      So, rather than assume there is a moral blind spot or other character flaw in those who don’t see the word Eskimo in the same way you do, consider the possibility that the case you’ve tried to make is simply not that compelling.

      A term being dated doesn’t necessarily demonstrate racism, or that others assigned it to Inuit doesn’t seem to do it either; follow this logic and every culture in the world is guilty of this nondescript crime (to me, this breaks down into absurdity).

      Of course, it’s understandable that people would prefer their own terms for themselves. Yet at some level it could be argued that this is exactly what the term Eskimo became, a word embraced and appropriated by Inuit themselves. In that case its origins outside of Inuit languages or culture doesn’t seem relevant at all.

      To me it seems that to truly demonstrate that ‘Eskimo’ is racist in a compelling way you should show how in its origins it was crafted as a slur, or how in its common usage over time it came to be widely used as a slur. Many people don’t see that, and not out of some deficiency on their part.

    • Posted by Happy happy happy on

      West Baffin Eskimo Co-op Limited in Kinngait Nunavut, a co-op by and for Inuit, going on strong for over 60+ years. Most Inuit aren’t offended if a racist tries to offend them, rhetorically speaking why should they be offended? Now if the snowflakes could get over it we might actually solve real problems.

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