Edmonton’s CFL football club says they’ll keep their name

“There were a range of views regarding the club’s name but no consensus emerged”

The Edmonton Eskimos football club will not change its name, the organization said in a statement this past Feb. 14. (Edmonton Eskimos image)

By Jim Bell

The Edmonton Eskimos football club, which continues to enjoy a close business relationship with two major Inuit birthright corporations, will not change its name, the organization announced this past Feb. 14.

That decision follows a public relations offensive that the club describes 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.

“There were a range of views regarding the club’s name but no consensus emerged to support a name change. The club has therefore decided to retain its name,” the organization said in a statement.

The issue arose in 2015, when Natan Obed, shortly after gaining the presidency of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, called on the Edmonton football club to change its name.

“This issue is about our right to self-determine who we are on our own terms. We are not mascots or emblems.,” Obed wrote in an op-ed article published on Dec. 2, 2015, in Nunatsiaq News.

Acknowledging those Inuit who do not find the name offensive, Obed nevertheless called on them to unite and support ITK’s campaign.

‘So for all my fellow Inuit who are not offended, please consider that many Inuit are offended by the term. Many Inuit do not want to be mascots. We cannot divorce this particular issue from our colonial relationship with Canada,” he said in 2015.

In response, the Edmonton football club launched a consultation campaign that culminated in last week’s announcement.

As for the ITK campaign, it appeared to end after August 2018, when Obed was re-elected president of the organization at an ITK annual general meeting in Inuvik.

Moments after Obed’s re-election, Duane Smith, the chair of the Inuvialuit Regional Corp., presented Obed with an Edmonton Eskimos ball cap in a light-hearted gesture that appeared to be aimed at resolving tension over the issue.

Meanwhile, the Inuit-owned Canadian North airline, now co-owned by two of ITK’s four members, the Makivik Corp. of Nunavik and the Inuvialuit Development Corp. of the Northwest Territories, continues to embrace the name “Edmonton Eskimos” and still bills itself as the “Official airline of the Edmonton Eskimos.”

The Inuit-owned Canadian North airline still promotes itself as the “Official airline of the Edmonton Eskimos.”

That’s because the Edmonton football club and the Canadian Football League are important air charter customers for Canadian North.

The relationship dates back many years, to when the older version of Canadian North was owned by the Inuvialuit Corp. and the Nunasi Corp. through the now-defunct Norterra Inc.

For its part, the Edmonton football club says it will continue public relations work in the North.

“We are the CFL’s most northern team and we want to continue to build our relationship with the Inuit community,” said Janice Agrios, chair of the club’s board of directors.

The club did school visits in in Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk in October 2019 and participated in the Inuvik Sunrise Festival last month.

And they say seven other communities in the Inuvialuit settlement region have asked the club for similar activities.

Next month, they plan to send players and other representatives to Norman Wells for a one-day school visit and a two-day youth gathering.

A community-owned business, the Edmonton football club reported operating revenues of $25.1 million and a net profit of $2.8 million for 2018, the last year for which financial statements are available.

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(14) Comments:

  1. Posted by No Moniker on

    Courageous move on the part of the club, and credit to them for reaching out and consulting the Inuit community. I hope this position is respected by the Inuit cultural elite, who seem to have a propensity to believe they get to decide what people should think or feel about issues around their identity. This is life outside the silo, Natan.

  2. Posted by INUK on


  3. Posted by WHY ESKIMOS ? (CAMBRIDGE BAY ) on

    What has the name ESKIMOS have to do with Inuit ?
    It is First Nations of Manitoba you should be talking with !
    Their word, their language.
    I love the proud name EDMONTON ESKIMOS and feel a strong
    kinship with Alberta.
    Our problems in Nunavut are legendary, but a lot of our
    leaders ignore them and walk about smiling.
    And we voted for them. OMG.

  4. Posted by Observer on

    This whole thing was a non-issue that was started by Natan to jump on the bandwagon with the controversy over other sports teams that used genuinely offensive names, offensive mascots, or otherwise appropriated or perverted First Nations symbology.

  5. Posted by Piitaqanngi on

    And why are we still reading about this non-issue? Good for the Eskimos for engaging the Inuit community. Emphasis on Inuit, not Eskimos.

  6. Posted by Eskimo Fan on

    Glad to see the Edmonton Eskimos keep the name.
    Been an Eskimo fan since residential school. ??

  7. Posted by Woke Olympian on

    It’s ironic, but worth noting that the ‘naming’ issue, among others, was born of European intellectualism, mostly through Foucauldian discourse analysis (see Michel Foucault). The belief is that naming the ‘other’ always demonstrates a power imbalance that is understood to be oppressive. This is a maxim of today’s most prevalent secular faith. This movement, which some call ‘third wave anti-racism’ is a creation of what is now seen as the radical far left. Publicly question their doctrine and like any heretic your fate awaits (in a flurry of wrath on social media, most likely). Cast from the tribe of sensitive, progressive, liberal thinkers you will be remember forever as ‘alt-right’ or some other boogeyman non-sense meant to mark you like Cain in the wilderness. Under this model psychological abuse and fear are the weapons of choice. This is unsurprising as the battle today is no longer to control economic or social policy, but more radically—how people think.
    To be fair, the nexus of language and power exists in the world. But not all relationships and language can be reduced to tools of structural oppression. Is there some evidence that the word ‘Eskimo’ was ever a slur? Or that people who unwittingly use it today are ipso facto ‘racists’ by doing so?

    These are fictions born, perhaps, of pithy intellectuals a half a century ago, but animated today by a class focused on performative and self-aggrandizing acts of fealty to ideas that have increasingly isolated themselves from scrutiny, while unconsciously detaching themselves from the world they believe to describe.

    Related reading:

    • Posted by Magister Ludi on

      “…omnia enim stolidi magis admirantur amantque,
      inversis quae sub verbis latitantia cernun…”


  8. Posted by Nunavummiut on

    I ask this of Natan Obed:

    Why don’t you tell us Inuit why it is offensive in a language that we, the Inuit will understand? No fancy words that we have to look up in the dictionary. Because I never understood, besides the fact that you did not want to be a mascot and emblem. Remove yourself from it.

    Just like the natives in the south, we had a name for them too, while they had a name for us which is a literal translation of “raw meat eaters” Have you not heard of Iqqiliq or unaliq?

    • Posted by Grafter on

      You made a good comment, & likewise UVALLI.
      We have to have a system where our Inuit organizations are
      accountable to the Nunavut beneficiariies.
      Their salaries & expenses should be made public, so that
      the public can see how much they make for all that work
      they have not done.
      What a pathetic leadership we have.

  9. Posted by Uvaali on

    Now come to our community to discuss our poor economy and lack of services with the same gusto as a name of a sports team.

  10. Posted by JOHN ELL on

    Five grey cups, still a record. One of them is actively doing business in Kitikmeot country. 🙂

  11. Posted by Mr. Ski Mo on

    Just last year it was lonely to be happy about the Eskimoes. Now there are so many people for Eskimo. Maybe people just got tired of Nathan.

  12. Posted by No Eskimo on

    Eskimo is a Cree word meant to be derogatory. Many uninformed or uneducated Inuit about its origins are misinformed thinking to take pride in It is a huge mistake. It is a fact.. Ask any Cree.
    (Facepalm and headshake, sigh)

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