Edmonton football club responds to new calls for a name change

“We will ramp up our ongoing engagement with the Inuit communities”

Faced with increased pressure to rethink its name, the Canadian Football League’s Edmonton team says it plans to ramp up engagement with Inuit communities around the country. (File photo)

By Sarah Rogers

Faced with increased pressure to rethink its name, the Canadian Football League’s Edmonton team says it plans to ramp up engagement with Inuit communities around the country.

The Edmonton Eskimos football club announced this past February plans to keep its name, following a year-long “research and engagement program” that brought the club to Iqaluit, Inuvik, Yellowknife and Ottawa to meet with Inuit.

The initiative was in response to calls from many Inuit—among them, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami—to change the team’s name.

But the recent deaths of Black and Indigenous people at the hands of police in both the United States and Canada have spurred a renewed call for the removal of emblems of both countries’ colonial pasts.

The football club says it’s taken note of that.

“We recognize that there has been increased attention to the name recently and we will ramp up our ongoing engagement with the Inuit communities to assess their views,” the CFL team tweeted on July 3.

The club reiterated the findings of its previous consultations, which it said found “no consensus among the Inuit people and considerable support for the Eskimos name among Inuit in various parts of northern Canada.”

The team did not, however, visit communities in Nunavik or Nunatsiavut.

Many Twitter users responded to the statement with replies like #ChangeYourName and #NotYourMascot, now popular hashtags directed at a number of North American sports teams still using Indigenous names and logos in their branding.

 


While some Inuit have expressed support for the team’s use of the term Eskimo, others say they find the term offensive and outdated.

The use of the term tends to be more heavily favoured through the western Arctic.

The etymology of the word remains disputed. It’s often considered to be Algonquian in origin, meaning “eaters of raw meat.” But other language scholars have suggested it is an Ojibwa term that would translate roughly as “those who lace snowshoes” and later adapted by French settlers as “esquimaux.”

But its original meaning is not particularly relevant to critics or supporters of the term.

“The colonial legacy of naming is about power and control,” wrote ITK president Natan Obed in a 2015 op-ed on the issue. “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.”

The CFL team continues to have a business relationship with two Inuit birthright corporations—Makivik Corp. of Nunavik and Inuvialuit Development Corp. of the Northwest Territories—who co-own Canadian North, which bills itself as the “official airline of the Edmonton Eskimos.”

Share This Story

(50) Comments:

  1. Posted by Jimmy on

    Why is the term “Eskimo” offensive but not the word Kablunak? The Inuit word for First Nations people is far more offensive than the word “Eskimo”. The term “Eskimo” is favoured throughout Alaska and nobody there seems offended. We’ve become far too politically-correct in this country. Canadians are easily offended.

  2. Posted by I am an Eskimo on

    leave the name. Nothing offensive for me and a lot of others. Just because a few mainstream inuit feel offended, does not mean all inuit are. Majority of offended people don’t speak our language, let alone understand it. If the organization is seriously considering changing the name, I hope they at least ask our race or put it to a vote.

    • Posted by Aitauk on

      I too have no issues with the football team using the name Eskimo -I think this came long before I was born, maybe maybe not. I was born and raised where there is no technology up until I started residential school Even during my residential school years, I never knew there was a football team or any other sport, only sport I recall listening to on the radio is ‘hockey’ during my school years mid sixties in Fort Simpson. Mamiana when leaders and/or other inuit complain about the name “Edmonton Eskimos”, I find they don’t share this with other Inuit communities across Nunavut -what gives?

  3. Posted by iWonder on

    According to postmodern and post-colonial theory language use, specifically naming things, is about power and control. If you accept this premise, then all terms named by an outsider are about controlling those things. This begs the question, when Inuit call white people Qabunaaq, is this about power? I expect the response would probably be no, because Inuit had no power within that dynamic. But so what? Why would that preclude the act from being about power or control? For example, controlling public perceptions about what is true, or about the identity of another?
    .
    That said, it is hard to deny that use of language does confer a measure of power and control to those who can use it well; and especially those who have the platform to do so. Consider the wording in the article above:
    .
    “While some Inuit have expressed support for the team’s use of the term Eskimo, many others say they find the term offensive and outdated.”
    .
    Note where the word ‘some’ was used vs where the word ‘many’ way used. This creates the impression that more people oppose the use of the term than those who support it. I actually doubt that is true, yet this could only be determined by quantitative analysis (i.e. a survey or poll). So why is it framed in this way? Is it to influence opinion? To create the sense that the majority favour a certain perspective, even when they may not? What would motivate the writer for framing it this way?
    .
    All that said I will applaud Nunatsiaq for presenting the tweet from Jeff Seeteenak above. Contrast that with the Tweet from Alethea above it. Do you wonder, who between them has more power to shape the narrative and public perception?
    .
    I am not writing this in support of or against the name of the Edmonton football club. Only to point out some of the dynamics and premises playing out within the debate itself.

    • Posted by Harley Scorah on

      I appreciate the way you presented that. It’s refreshing to see a comment these days that presents both positive and negative arguments without extreme bias.

    • Posted by v t on

      How about calling the team the Edmonton Newfies?
      We are all over that place.

      • Posted by v t on

        Of course Toronto would have to change the name as well… being overrun by us and all…
        But the CFL can suffer two teams with the same name for a decade or four….

  4. Posted by No offense taken on

    No need to overreact to this issue after all we do eat raw meat. Stop wasting time on this and I’m sure the football club when first searching for a name they must have had a community contest and someone thought of the Inuit and their adaptability.

  5. Posted by Eskinuit on

    Just leave it alone , “Everybody loves an Eskimo” I’m not angry about the name as there are too many other important social issues we need to address as Inuit. ITK has no more use if that’s all the President wants to change.

  6. Posted by emuse on

    This is what I have heard people say who are fine with the name:
    “The team was named Eskimos because they recognized us as a people to be strong, and it was a sign of respect.”
    Quick search online states that it started because of the rivalry between Calgary and Edmonton teams. They would insult each other with derogatory names and terms. Edmonton called the Calgary team ‘cow camp’ and Calgary called the Edmonton team ‘esquimaux,’ due to Edmonton being geographically north from Calgary, and colder.

    Even if this were not the case, WHAT ABOUT CANADIAN HISTORY MAKES ANYONE THINK THAT THERE WAS A RESPECT FOR INDIGENOUS PEOPLE when the name for the Edmonton Eskimos was chosen?

    I for one think that this pride in the Edmonton Eskimos by Inuit is really accidentally misplaced. My dad told me that when he was young, growing up, he would hear Edmonton Eskimo games on the radio. He and his siblings would cheer for them, and were so proud that there were Inuit out there playing football on such a stage, getting acclaim and recognition. They had no idea these people were not Inuit at all, and did not find out until years later. But that pride (even after finding out the truth) remained, and was passed on to my sports loving siblings.

    This did not pass on to me. I have never had a love for sports. But after having a discussion with me, my sports loving family members have decided that they should not be speaking in support of the team name. They decided that while the team name does not affect them, they are ok with it being changed because it is something that hurts me, and really bothers me.

    I am not a mascot. And I love my family for their support and willingness to be open and accepting, and willingness to listen to other sides and reconsider their position.

    • Posted by Observation Post on

      Edmonton didn’t adopt the name Eskimo because it was an insult, even if Calgarians called them that in jest. The decision to be offended by this is entirely yours though, that’s true.

      • Posted by emuse on

        Copied text, source at the bottom.
        “The story of team’s name goes back to stories in the press from at least 1903 and possibly as far back as 1892, the first date of a “rugby football” game between Edmonton and Calgary. It is a legacy of the bitter rivalry between the cities of Edmonton and Calgary, the so-called Battle of Alberta. In the early years of sports competition between the cities, the press in each town used colourful nicknames to insult the rival team’s home. Edmontonian writers called Calgary “the cow camp”, “horse country”, or “the little village beside the Bow”. Likewise Calgary’s responded with insults about Edmonton’s northern latitude and frigid weather, calling the city’s residents “Esquimaux” (an archaic spelling of “Eskimos”, referring to the indigenous people of the Canadian Arctic, properly called Inuit). Despite the fact Edmonton is several thousand kilometres south of the Arctic, the name “had the advantages of alliteration, neatness, uniqueness, and a certain amount of truth,” and thus, according to historian of Edmonton Tony Cashman, “it stuck.” The name remained an unofficial nickname, however, until the arrival in Edmonton of American baseball coach and sports promoter William Deacon White in 1907. White founded the Edmonton Eskimos baseball team in 1909, the football Eskimos in 1910, and Edmonton Eskimos hockey team in 1911. Of the three, only the football teams’ name has survived.”
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edmonton_Eskimos

        I realize wikipedia is not the best resource, however Tony Cashman is a legit historian in Edmonton.
        https://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/educational-magazines/cashman-tony-1923

        Can you please provide your source to state otherwise?

        • Posted by Of course on

          Yes, how very derogatory to call the Eskimo because they live further north. Clearly it was so insulting that the Edmonton sports team tried to distance themselves as much as possible from the name instead of embracing it for what it is… oh, wait.
          .
          Maybe all the junior hockey teams in Iqaluit being called the Iqaluit Blizzard is derogatory, too.

          • Posted by Huh? on

            Let’s say there is a team from Iqaluit and a team from Rankin and they are rivals. By your logic it would be ok for the Rankin team to call the Iqaluit team by a term that is used to colloquially by some to refer to British people because the Iqaluit team is east of Rankin. This term is something some British people find offensive and to be a slur, and some are ok with it, but the word would definitely have a complicated history. This situation, of course would not be ok. So just because it happened over a hundred years ago, does not make it ok.
            To continue though, let’s say the Iqaluit team wasn’t offended by the term, they thought it was funny, cute, appropriate, whatever, so they adopted it as their team name, and kept it for years before the British who are offended by the word find out and ask them to change their name out of respect, and understanding that the term is hurtful to some. It would not be ok for Iqaluit to say, well too bad, we have had this name, we like it, and there are other British people who like it too. This still does not make it ok.

            There are genuinely people who are hurt, who have been racialized, and who have had negative experiences with this word. Of course there are others who have not, who have and do identify as Eskimo. That does not mean that we should be saying suck it up to those who have been. We should be accepting and say, we here you, and we respect your position, we support you so that no one will be hurt by this again.

            I think that a great idea would be to have a competition for a northern word or animal suggestion for a team name that is associated with Inuit/Eskimo that can replace this word. That way we can still have pride in the team, but we can move forward from this.

            And just to note, I do not have an example of a slur for British people in mind when I wrote this.

    • Posted by Eva on

      I don’t know why you think of yourself as a mascot. In fact, the team mascots are a walking football, and a polar bear. I love our team, it’s a team with great legacy and pride. The name Edmonton Eskimos is not used as a joke or in any way derogatory. I wish you could come to a game and see this for yourself.

  7. Posted by Northern Inuit on

    just because you have a twitter account doesn’t make you the be all and end all voice of eskimo’s and inuit alike.

    talk to us, many of your fellow inuit love the name Edmonton Eskimo’s.

    I’m not a fan of the CFL, but I’m proud and happy that Edmonton chose their name.

    now wash your hands and stop worrying about the small things.

  8. Posted by Silas on

    Due to pressure created by recent events, many seem to want to wipe out history. History allows us to avoid mistakes. If we didn’t know the history of the holocaust it would make it easier for another to repeat it. Though many deny it happened, it is part of history.
    Knocking down statues etc. does not erase history as it happened. They should instead be noted as the holocaust has been to remind us of what should not be.
    They should instead find a means to memorialize the wrongs that were done to various peoples and find solutions to the wrongs being done.
    Keeping the name of the Edmonton Eskimos might be one example of how a people were demoralized with demeaning terms. Keep the name as it reminds me that I was once called that but I am an Inuk.

  9. Posted by The Native on

    It should be an honor to have a sports team or anything named after us. Eskimo is not an insulting word so stop trying to make it one.

    Maybe they should change the name that away they don’t have to go through all this BS. Then we can change and stop naming everything after proud and brave people. That away the history will fade into oblivion and no one will ever remember.

    • Posted by Rosebudd on

      I have been a huge fan of the Edmonton Eskimos for my entire life (and I’m old). I have always had the utmost respect of the name Eskimo and the people who it had originated. I am saddened that the Eskimos seem to be backed into a corner and will have to change the name. What makes me sad is that the relationship with the Inuit will end with this change. No more work in the community, no more references to the Inuit people at the games. I am afraid that the Inuit will be forgotten and I don’t think that is fair.

  10. Posted by Thomas Aggark on

    Inuit here were better off living on with nwt. Now all families are in control of this small territory. I don’t think nunavut should have a voice just making rest of us unsafe to southerners.

  11. Posted by Accidental Occidental on

    This issue seems to underscore the rarely discussed or acknowledged divide between different social classes in Nunavut. This is only anecdotal but, out of curiosity I often ask my students or co-workers their opinion on the use of Eskimo in this and other contexts. It is unusual to hear an objection, though I sometimes do; most seem to like the Edmonton Eskimo name, many embrace it and are confused and even angry at the opposition. I offer this comes from a class of Inuit who have come to these views through their education in Southern universities, and mostly from progressive ideological positions such as post-colonialism. These individuals have a distinct advantage in this debate; though they are far fewer, they approach this from positions of social power which the majority of Inuit simply do not have.
    .
    Many years ago I taught a course and had a guest speaker on one occasion. My students jokingly said they were “too Eskimo” to understand his point. He proceeded to lecture them like children, “Oh no!” He exclaimed “that’s a bad word… never use that word”. I was annoyed at him for telling them what they could or could not call themselves (he was white). I sometimes imagine a similar kind of thing playing out in university classroom and lecture halls, backed by the powerful language of Franz Fanton, Edward Said or Michel Foucault.
    .
    It is here, it seems, that the idea that Eskimo is derogatory term was conjured up for its emotive power, not it’s basis in etymology, or linguistic fact. On the other hand, who would argue against people choosing their own names for themselves? Not me, though it is odd indeed to see one class of Inuit use their own power to do that exact thing.

  12. Posted by Inuk Person on

    To quote Minister Kusugak; take a valium and leave the name alone! It’s not offensive to us!

    • Posted by Out to lunch on

      Minister Kusugak supports the name, get your story straight

  13. Posted by Artie on

    Do you think the Edmonton football team would use a name that was not synonomous with strength, courage, valour, respect, bravery. Doubtful. Eskimos (aka. Inuit) of bygone eras were HIGHLY respected for their courage & for their ability to live in the HARSHEST climate on the face of the planet. My Dad was a HUGE Edmonton Eskimos fan. In my youth my parents would regularly point out Inuit in our community who were renowned for their skills. Eg. the best polar hunter; the best trapper; that hunter never returns from a hunt w/out catching something; the best seamstresses; this fellow can make an iglu in a blizzard in 10mins or less; this fellow can make any broken skidoo engine work again w/out parts; this woman makes the best bannock in town; this fellow may be a janitor but if suddenly in January there was no power and heat left in the building & community… he is the guy you want to be best friends with. I was a little guy at that time but my parents instilled in me the understanding that these seemingly average everyday people were extraordinary! I was in awe of them! And for all the reasons I was in awe the Edmonton football team was too! So much so that they wanted to name their professional football team after these remarkable & stoic people. Btw. In my opinion. Eskimos = Vikings for courage & bravery. Both professional football team names. Fyi. I am Inuit.

    • Posted by Agree to disagree on

      I would argue that the Edmonton Eskimos did pick a name to symbolize strength, and probably some other positive adjectives, but I think that it would have been because we were considered to be a strong animal. Look at other sports teams names. They pick animals that possess qualities that they would like to be associated with their team. Speed, strength, agility, etc. I mean, looking at how Inuit were treated 100 years ago, it makes sense to me that we would be considered by white people to be on the same level as animals (not saying I agree with it, the thought actually angers me).
      We were considered less than, as savage, but yeah, sure, strong because we survived in a harsh environment.

      • Posted by Artie on

        In no way, shape, or form can you construe that an Eskimo was considered an animal that the Edmonton football team from 75+ years wanted to be named after. In all my years (and from people older than myself) of living in Nunavut have I ever heard of Inuit/Eskimos being considered anything other than a respectful, family-oriented, hearty & brave people who inhabited the harshest climate on the face of the planet.

        • Posted by Agree to disagree on

          I totally agree with you. I don’t think that Inuit should be compared to animals. You missed my point entirely.
          People are assuming that the Edmonton Eskimos chose their name because we are strong people who have survived in one of the harshest environments on earth. But they have no way of knowing that.
          I personally think that it is more believable that at that period in time that white people would consider us on the same level as animals, and I think there is more evidence to lean to that side of the argument, based on history. Do I know that for sure? No. Just as people who say they chose the name out of respect don’t know.

        • Posted by Agree to disagree on

          Also, to add, I think that there are people who move up from the South who develop an appreciation and respect for Inuit, of course. Of course there are others who do not, and maintain their prejudices. But I can name a number of people personally who aren’t from the North but who have become lifers because of their love for the North and the people. Is there any evidence that the people who named the Edmonton Eskimos actually ever met any Inuit in real life? Or came to the North at all? I think that would add an interesting spin to the argument.

          • Posted by Artie on

            You made lots of additional comments. Sports teams generally name their teams after empowering & inspiring symbols, icons, animals, people, etc. Eskimos of old were an inspiring, brave and courageous people. I’m pretty certain the Edmonton team elected their team name for this reason. Your logic would suggest that the Vikings, Frontenacs, Patriots, NZ All Blacks, Canucks, Raiders, Saints, Senators should all change their names too. Edmonton will likely change their team name & won’t skip a beat transitioning to their new brand & huge new $$ merchandising opportunities. 🤑👍

  14. Posted by Merv Grasby on

    If I controlled the EE I would totally ignore this, who cares. If Iqaluit wants a CFL franchise
    WE will give the name to them so we should be ok for about 2 million years.

  15. Posted by Not Offended on

    Gets tiring of hearing this same Spotlight Drama every couple of years. All Eskimo’s have no problem with the team name. Just the ones that love the spotlight and need something to do, or boost one of their social accounts activity. Or get themselves re-sparked in the midIa light.
    To the leaders in the football team. Just worry about the season/ upcoming season so we can enjoy cheering on ur success!!

  16. Posted by Ken Cantor on

    I think when the club first found “no consensus among the Inuit people and considerable support for the Eskimos name among Inuit in various parts of northern Canada”, that should have elicited a change in the name. Not doing so is a bit like saying not everyone is offended by your verbally abusing your spouse so you’ll simply continue.

  17. Posted by Mark McCourt on

    One great Eskimo no longer able to participate in this discussion about whether the Edmonton Eskimo Football Club should change its name is Inuit human rights activist and former Edmonton city councillor Kiviaq.

    He was Canada’s first Inuit lawyer and the first Inuk to suit up for our beloved Esks. Shortly before he died four years ago, Kiviaq said that far from being offended, he took great pride in the Edmonton Eskimos name. I believe most Inuvialuit and indeed most Inuit, as well as most Edmontonians and most Eskies fans agree with the late great Kiviaq.

  18. Posted by Eskimo on

    It must be about racism. Eskimo is a nice word. Sounds nice. If there was a vote of all “Inuit, (Eskimos, Kabloonaak, Groups of people, people of Nunavut Territory…) would say it’s ok Edmonton Eskimos! Keep the name. Go Eskimos Go!

  19. Posted by Jimmy on

    Perhaps one could argue that getting rid of the “Eskimos” name would, in itself, be a racist act. Perhaps the un-named sponsor who wants the name changed is discriminating against Inuit.

  20. Posted by Bentley on

    Time to change the name. Maybe the club will win all the time. The club name still sounds to be racist. Most people joke around about the name but not realizing their being racist. This is very true.

  21. Posted by Richard w rand on

    While the name “Eskimos” would have been seen as a tribute to tough resilient Northern dwellers, apart from it being an outdated term, the overall shift in societal attitudes to any sports franchise names that have racial or ethnic bases really does invite a name change.

    If we decide to do so, maybe “Energy” is the way to go. The double EE logo can stay, (eco ) green and (solar ) gold team colours still work, even the three syllable name fits into the only slightly reworked fight song. If the team is flat, they’re “Ergs”, if they are hot, they’re “Joules” …?

  22. Posted by Richard w Rand on

    While the name “Eskimos” would have been seen as a tribute to tough resilient Northern dwellers, apart from it being an outdated term, the overall shift in societal attitudes to any sports franchise names that have racial or ethnic bases really does invite a name change.

    If we decide to do so, maybe “Energy” is the way to go. The double EE logo can stay, (eco ) green and (solar ) gold team colours still work, even the three syllable name fits into the only slightly reworked fight song. If the team is flat, they’re “Ergs”, if they are hot, they’re “Joules” …?

  23. Posted by Crystal on

    Do anyone have a suggestion for the most efficient way to consult a large number of people in the Inuit communities to get accurate feedback? If the name is offensive to those it represents, change is imperative. However if the name has been a source of pride & representation for a minority culture, I would hate to see it changed over the outrage of the wrong people (those who it doesn’t represent). Or is there a name change that can be deemed not offensive but still honour and represent those reliant qualities the team wants to be associated with?

    • Posted by Petition on

      The only thing I can think of off hand is a petition through change.org

  24. Posted by geekybandit on

    If the Edmonton Eskimos name is such a problem, why didn’t the Inuit complain about it when the team was first created? Why are they complaining about it now?

  25. Posted by a proud fan on

    what do you think of the name the North Men , i heard some were that inuit meant people of the north.

  26. Posted by don matheson on

    If not already suggested, may I put forward the new name
    to be The Edmonton Eagles

  27. Posted by Phil renforth on

    Neutral name shut everybody up
    Edmonton Eclipse
    Should not of changed it my opinion

Join the Conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*