Push underway to rename Canadian Eskimo Dog as Inuit Qimmiq

Change would overturn breed’s name registered in 1888

Inuit dogs stand on the melting ice on the causeway in Iqaluit in May 2018. The official name of these dogs as registered under the Canadian Kennel Club is Canadian Eskimo Dog. The group that oversees the breed is hoping to change that. (File photo)

By Emma Tranter

In northern Canada, Inuit and qimmiit have worked alongside each other for centuries.

Capable of pulling heavy sleds over ice and snow for long periods, the thick-coated, resilient sled dogs are one of the world’s rarest dog breeds. They’ve been known to prove their value by spotting everything from game to potential predators to dangerous cracks in the sea ice.

The qimmiq, the traditional Inuit sled dog, is also the official animal of Nunavut, named by the legislative assembly.

Qimmiq, the Inuktitut word for dog, also refers to canines in general.

But according to the official records of the Canadian Kennel Club, the primary registration body for purebred dogs in Canada, these dogs are listed as Canadian Eskimo Dogs. The breed was registered with the CKC back in 1888 as Eskimo Dog. That name hasn’t been changed since, except when in 1986 “Canadian” was added to the breed’s name to distinguish it from the Greenland Dog.

The CKC is a national, member-based organization. It includes over 20,000 members and 700 registered breed clubs, including the Canadian Eskimo Dog Club, which provides registry services for purebred qimmiit in Canada.

The Canadian Eskimo Dog Club is asking the CKC to change the official name of the dog to “Inuit Qimmiq.”

Although the definition of a purebred qimmiq can be confusing, Rachel Attituq Qitsualik, a former columnist for Nunatsiaq News, wrote that Inuit don’t attach significance to a certain breed.

“I’ve never quite grasped whatever impulse overcomes people when they want to view their dogs as status symbols. Although Inuit have been known to be proud of their dogs, such pride lies more in having an efficient team or pup-bearing bitch than in an individual dog,” Qitsualik wrote.

“Having been raised in an environment where dogs were strictly valued for their utility, where with rare exceptions affection was peripheral, one can understand my rather slow adaptation to the idea of dogs as pets—especially house pets.”

Jason Foucault, president of the Canadian Eskimo Dog Club, told Nunatsiaq News the breed’s name needs to change.

But to do that, the club needs to gain the support of the CKC’s some 20,000 members. If the club’s application for a name change is approved, the CKC’s members will vote on the new name in September of this year.

“So when you’re changing the name of the breed, we actually have to go to the members of the CKC to vote on this change and get approval from the members of the CKC before it becomes official,” Foucault said.

The Edmonton Eskimos, a Canadian football team, has been widely criticized for its named. In 2015, Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, demanded that the team stop using the term.

“Consider the legacy of naming in our experience. In the past, non-Inuit imposed their own names onto our lands and bodies in place of centuries-old Inuktut ones. Inuktut place names were systematically substituted for English names that then became part of the basis for Canadian land ownership,” Obed wrote in a letter to Nunatsiaq News.

Foucault said for the most part, the response to the proposed name change has been positive. Some members, however, have taken issue with removing “Canadian” from the dog’s name.

But Foucault says it’s important to distinguish the dog as Inuit, rather than Canadian.

“The word qimmiq is being used because it’s the language of the people that developed the dog in the first place. And understanding that the Inuit have always referred to the dog as qimmiq, it came fairly easily in the discussion.”

As a club, Foucault says his members are also focused on preserving the breed, especially in the North.

In the 1920s, there were approximately 20,000 qimmiit in Canada. Now, there are roughly 300 left, Foucault said.

“The breed over the last 10 years or so had maintained a pretty steady number in the low to mid 300s. So there’s still not a huge population, but it’s one that at this point is a sustainable number of dogs,” he said.

From 1950 to 1975, the federal government imposed colonial practices on Inuit, including systematic sled dog killings, forced relocations, abusive treatment of Inuit children in federal day schools and more.

All of this was documented by the Qikiqtani Truth Commission, an Inuit-run body that from 2007 to 2010 gathered evidence from 345 witnesses at 16 public hearings held throughout the region, along with extensive archival research.

The effects of those colonial practices are felt throughout Nunavut today.

In August 2019, Carolyn Bennett, Canada’s minister of Crown-Indigenous relations and northern affairs, apologized to Qikiqtani Inuit on behalf of the federal government for these practices.

Combined with the introduction of the snowmobile and crossbreeding between other dogs like Siberian Huskies, the dogs’ population dwindled heavily. By 1963, the dogs were considered extinct.

Foucault said Bennett’s apology prompted the club to begin the process of changing its name.

“When it came to Canada, and we really started going into Canada’s role in this breed and what it is that Canada did to this breed, and having literally driven the breed to extinction…. That is not just any sled dog. This is the original dog. The dog that everybody saw as extinct. The same dog that was slaughtered in the thousands. It is the same dog. That’s another reason why the name is important, because this is the same dog.”

The vote wouldn’t be the first in the CKC’s history. It has already voted in favour to change the Mexican hairless to the xoloitzcuintli, the Dutch sheepdog to the schapendoes, and the sheepdog changed to the Belgian shepherd.

“I think this will also become an element of healing of past wounds and transgressions. Not only to get the breed back, but to get the namesake of the breed back as well. Not having Canadian in the name doesn’t make it any less Indigenous to the country. When people understand and accept that, that’s when the mind set changes,” Foucault said.

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(31) Comments:

  1. Posted by Raw meat eaters on

    The Eskimo word again, this time for the poor old dog. Inuit dog. What’s wrong with the truth? Inuit eat raw meat and fish! And its so damm good and nutritious. And its believed that all these years, calling ourselves Eskimo has been wrong. Yes we called ourselves Eskimo, doesn’t matter where it originated from, we used it ourselves. It may mean eaters of raw meat, flesh, whatever in someones language, but we adapted it. And ! Get this , we are what the word says. Comes along some out of tune , educated! Proving a point, or pointless individual, leadership us into political correctness, nothing to do with reality, but just to battle the other elites on the front lines of powerful nothingness. Here we are struggling with a hundred or more years of defining our description! To be up for grabs on the front lines of politics, so some leader gets his way, in the colonial landscape.

    • Posted by Don’t Offend on

      This(Eskimo) is not a word that was chosen by Inuit to describe ourselves. Regardless of its meaning, it’s disrespectful to use it if it offends some Inuit.

      • Posted by Same logic on

        If some Inuit prefer the word, is it not also disrespectful to insist they don’t use it?

      • Posted by Chosen not on

        It’s actually from Cree, as far as I can tell, correct me. Eskimo has been used by inuit for many many years, whether they made it so , or not. I can only say ! It was used by inuit. Many words are made from other cultures, and adapted. But , a point in question, why is it offensive to describe a reality? Inuit do eat raw, and proud. Why is it offensive, are Inuit in your opinion ashamed of being described as raw meat and fish eaters. I think it’s just offensive to a small influencial group, that are ashamed themselves to be seen as real inuit, who live the life.

      • Posted by Offended for wrong reasons on

        It’s too bad people are not offended for some real good reasons. Like be offended when bad behaviour is pointed out. Offended to the point of positive change. Like pointing out the alcohol and drug abuse, sexual abuse. The murders. The neglect of children ! Gone off to the south, and dyp. No, people are not offended by that, yet get offended by a word that describes the truth about their eating practices. Ashamed of being described by a way of life ! That is beautiful, yet , the behaviour of the evil wrong doings continue to destroy. This is from fake noise makers.

      • Posted by Israel MacArthur on

        “Some Inuit…” So what is the level of offense necessary for change? One person, two people? Eighty percent of the population?

        I find the word qablunak demeaning and minimizing; I have an identity of much more than merely ‘non-Inuit’, yet people routinely choose to take that away from me with a simple us and them worldview. However, I don’t see anyone moving to stop using such an exclusionary word just because I don’t like it.

        So, what is the standard for language change?

      • Posted by pink guy not white on

        inuks call me white all the time. i didnt choose to be called white but they do. I did not choose for myself they others did.

        this is not different than eskimo

        we don’t choose how other people talks, just our own words

    • Posted by oh ima on

      our culture is not just defined by eating raw meeting! We had and have a strong society that’s not just based on eating raw meat! We have strong kinship, social economic system and justice system before contact. Just called the dog Qimmiq, don’t need to say Inuit Qimmiq!

      I don’t care for the word Eskimo, that not what we are we are more than what word implies. Might as well call First Nations Itqiliiq, people with lice in their hair!

      Don’t be so colonized or need to be liked by other societies!

      • Posted by ranger on

        @oh ima .. have you read history or you make up things as you go? The fact of the matter is names could be changed, but that will never force people to use them. Most people in and outside Nunavut refer to communities by their English names like Repulse Bay and Frobisher Bay. The word Eskimo is globally used with no bad intention, simply to refer to the people of the Arctic. If you continue changing words, you will just instigate negative connotations and attract the wrong attention. I assure you 50 or 100 years from now, the world will still refer to you as Eskimos no matter what you do. So why not embrace it and focus on giving Eskimos a good reputation through accomplishments rather than pouring water down the drain.

  2. Posted by Problematic on

    Interesting story about a type of dog, that morphs into a pastiche of sometimes disconnected grievances. At one point implying, or attempting to connect the application of English names to the misnaming of the dog ‘eskimo’, though the word is not an English one, well who cares… the author of the piece is not from Nunavut, has probably only stepped out of Iqaluit on the odd and very rare occasion, so nuance be damned. It should be noted, though, that the term Eskimo, in the context of the football club at leasst, is very widely supported as well. Why not say this? I could offer a reason, but that of course would be construed as a personal attack by our delicate journalists. A sign of the times for sure. I would offer this though: Nunatsiaq should run a poll to see gather opinions from across Nunavut on the use of the term Eskimo in various contexts. Granted public polls can be problematic. It would be interesting to see the results if they could be gathered.
    On another note, I own one of these dogs, he is a beautiful creature.

  3. Posted by Proud Canada North on

    Canada shaming is wrong. I am proud to be Canadian. These dogs are important and what happened by men past should not be shamed on now when people are trying to bring back the teams and make it right. Shaming is not right. Be Canada proud.

  4. Posted by My qallunaat dog on

    Don’t call me qallunaat. And don’t call my dog a qallunaat dog. But, I think the qallunaat dog has infiltrated the Inuit qimmiit long ago. What will inuit call the dogs that are not inuit. Will they call then qallunaat? Qallunaat mean , those that are not inuit. Such a broad word. What’s the name of a middle eastern? If inuit are going to get rid of the word Eskimo, then, I want the qallunaat word removed as well.

  5. Posted by Inuk on

    If it’s going to be renamed, why not just name it Qimmiq?
    If the word Inuit will still be attached, anyone/everyone will still be offended anyway.
    Qimmiq will still have its connection to us. Inuit Qimmiq doesn’t sound right speaking Inuktut.
    Ok, what can we be offended by next?

  6. Posted by Sue Hamilton on

    I have recently learned that the Canadian Eskimo Dog Club of Canada (CEDCC) plans to petition the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) to change the name of their breed to “Inuit Qimmiq”. As my long time Canadian friend who shares my respect for aboriginal dogs reminded me, “Canada is big on Canadian political correctness now. Likely it is the word Eskimo that is driving this.” No doubt. However, that may be only part of the reason.

    Not only is political correctness a hot topic, recently, and in relation to another northern issue (music), the subject of “cultural appropriation” has been hotly debated.

    Now speaking in terms of the dog only, it seems to me when one thinks of a definition of the word “Eskimo”, that historically the dogs ate raw meat (even though I imagine many of today’s cultured breed Canadian Eskimo Dogs eat kibble). This would appear not representing as pejorative a remark as it was when used referring to The People.

    In this context, the “E” word may be less onerous than the utterly ridiculous proposed “Inuit Qimmiq” moniker which to this qallunaaq really smacks of cultural appropriation! Historically (before the advent of kennel club registration, written breed standards and pedigrees and all the trappings of a cultured dog breed society) as well as right now, the authentic landrace “Inuit Qimmiq” (more commonly referred to in the north by other names but never this one) the dog widely recognized as essential to millennia of Inuit survival, is inherently unlike the cultured breed of the CEDCC proposed new identity. I find it especially egregious, not to mention hypocritical, that back in 1997 when the term “Inuit Sled Dog”, (referring to these aboriginal dogs of the circumpolar north) came into open use, the crowd then known as CEDA passionately denounced the name. Among their chief complaint was that if a dog didn’t have a kennel club certified pedigree (or a tattoo inside its lip as one Inuk was led to believe) IT WAS NOT PURE! Not understanding what an aboriginal landrace means, they still don’t consider these dogs “pure”. Another issue hotly rejected is based on Ken MacRury’s 1991 master’s thesis declaring the dogs of Canada and Greenland are the same landrace. This opposition remains despite verification many times over by DNA driven science.

    Not unlike the Alaskan Malamute (originally derived from Inuit Dogs) whose real existence and history began with the breed’s 1935 American Kennel Club registration, the CKC Canadian Eskimo Dog’s history began when some but not all of the animals generated by Bill Carpenter’s and John McGrath’s Eskimo Dog Recovery Project were turned over to registered dog enthusiasts who pursued and bred dogs for showing and pets. Essentially the history of that particular group of dogs began around 1986 when they, on the leashes pulled by their owners, crossed the line from being an aboriginal landrace to a cultured breed [http://thefanhitch.org/V13N1/V13,N1Breed.html]. The rest of the project’s dogs were saved, returned to people and places where the dogs continued to be bred and worked as were their predecessors.

    Aboriginal people worldwide have been kicked to the curb since their exposure to outside cultures. I view the Canadian Eskimo Dog Club of Canada’s proposal to change the name to “Inuit Qimmiq” akin to rubbing salt into an old, festering wound. I am not at all familiar with the Canadian Kennel Club’s mindset on such matters, but I do hope that they know where the real history of their member breed began, less than four decades ago, and will deny the CEDCC’s request.

  7. Posted by Simplicated on

    It is in proper tradtional terms Inuit Qirmmiq.
    Person dog. Ackward too.
    I also know many Inuit are white by skin but tottally Inuks.
    So if qallunaq hurts, like Eskimo You could say call me Inuk human.
    How about person people.
    Peace out.

    • Posted by In My Opinion on

      I doubt the word qallunaat really hurts anyone, people here are mostly just pointing out what appears to be a double standard in the attribution of words and names. Of course, that glosses over the fact that it is really just a small class of people claiming offense at the word “Eskimo.” On the one hand it’s true that a people should expect the name they wish for themselves to be the commonly accepted and used term. But, claiming the older term, in this case ‘Eskimo’ is an inherent slur and racist while shaming people who prefer to keep it in use (Inuit) is another story altogether.

  8. Posted by Inuk ii on

    One person is Inuk, two people are Inuuk three or more are Inuit, Inuk, Inuuk or Inuit means person or people or humans so Inuit dog will then mean human dogs I would think that is more offensive than being called Eskimo. I am in agreement with Inuk if the tile needs to be changed change it to Qimmiq.

  9. Posted by Blessed are those who are thick. on

    It’s not what you call me, it’s how I call myself to be who I am. This is nothing more than thin skinned people with fragile feelings. Fragile and demeaning. I mean that name as been around so long. Now it’s being offensive. Nothing more than the thin skins reacting. I like the word Eskimo! It’s tough. It’s solid. It’s a determined people. I like the word inuit, and inuk too, still solid tough people, but I’m not for the thin skins that are sensitive to it all. It’s a show only. Let’s not mine too much about theses thin skins! As they always would jump off a cliff too, if you told them to. They get going, and run when the going gets tough.

    • Posted by Consistency on

      Just because a name or word has been around for a long time does not mean it should be continued. and even if someone is “thin skinned” does not mean their concerns are not valid. If you meet someone and they miss understand your name (or just just make one up) and use that name it can sometimes be awkward to correct them. but even if you let it go for years then you decide to let them know they say it wrong that is not a bad thing. and being referred to the way you prefer does not make you thin skinned.

      • Posted by Thinned skins on

        If you have thin skin, it means you are super sensitive to criticism and usual run away from confrontation. How would a thinned skinned person represent this debate? If we have to be lead into the world by such persons, we would not survive. Those with thinned skins should be heard, but acknowledged of their sensitivity and even inappropriate behaviours. They fear and are afraid of their own shallow. They are not helpful in their altered sense of reality. On the other hand thick skinned in its extreme is not good either. Such persons could have numbed feelings, but in a day to day behaviours of navigating and tolerance!mits good to have a thick skin, rather than thin.

  10. Posted by Luc Larouche on

    Two fondations; Nunavut qimmik and Nunavik qimmik …

  11. Posted by Tommy on

    The proposed suggested name is even worse than what it is now. What is up with this plural singular name? This political correctedness is making this new name all the more silly. Inuit Qimmiq, although are Inuit words, is not Inuit term when put together. Stupid as a stupid does is what this really is.

  12. Posted by Karkopekleri on

    I’m up for the Inuit choosing the name for what is essentially the dog that they have “designed” over the years by breeding from the best and allowing it to survive.

    My CED/CID/ISD/IQ etc dogs don’t give two woo woos what breed they are called as long as they can run/work, eat & produce like they’ve been doing for thousands of years.

    What I give a woo woo about is it not loosing its fundamental type.

    We need to define these dogs so the country of origin and its folk can still own it.

    Qimmiq means dog. It doesn’t define a type. It doesn’t define the beautiful freight dog with small ears, a plume tail, a clown disposition and it’s fundamental ability to survive.

    Personally I think the Canadian Inuit Dog says it all. It’s from Canada, originating from the Inuit and it’s a dog.


    • Posted by Thule Dog on

      It’s really from Siberia though!

    • Posted by Yes so look after it on

      Yes indeed, the Canadian Inuit dog, so look after it, don’t wait til the government makes it happen, you do it.

  13. Posted by Sarah on

    I kinda like the name change, or just call it Qimmiq as the breed name. Currently I call C.E.Ds just Canadian Inuit Dogs. My boyfriend is Inuk and he hates the word Esk*mo. So I don’t like to use it and I won’t use it.

    And besides, these dogs were theirs and still are theirs. They should be the ones to name it. And plenty of dog breeds have undergone name changes, so it will all be okay. Kennel Clubs and Breed Clubs will adapt to it I’m sure.

  14. Posted by Putuguk on

    This is pure verbal diarrhea. Qimmiq is dog. Any dog. It can be the most frail and hairless bloody chihuahua in history and still be called qimmiq.

    And really who cares what a club calls them. I don’t. It means nothing to me.

    Protect the breed. Make it a law that if you want to bring up a dog into Nunavut you should have prove it is spayed or neutered unless it is a sled dog. Let us do something besides telling white people down south what they ought to do.

    Having guided polar bear hunts done by dog team and dog team races only go so far to promote our kind of dog in their natural habitat.

    If sled dogs were wildlife we would have tons of meetings, management plans and community based projects to make them recover. We would already have a national park for them by now, chewing up everyone’s gear to their hearts content. Because they are owned, there is nothing.

    The only effort they are worth it seems is to make them another subject of our ongoing and pointless language skirmishes.

  15. Posted by Uvaali on

    Who comes up with these suggestions? Inuit Qimmiq does not mean anything and is grammatically incorrect. Try a back translation-Peoples’ dog.

    Try: Inuit Qinmituqait, Qinmituqait, Inuit Dogs, Nunavut Qinmituqait,

    Not perfect but makes much better sense.

  16. Posted by beatrice ikkidluak on

    Inuit Qimmiit, I think means ” Inuit are dogs”? I don’t get offended being called Eskimo. I love eating raw country food too.

    • Posted by beatrice Ikkidluak on

      oops, I got this spelling wrong. Inuit Qimmiq , it really doesn’t mean anything.

  17. Posted by Alaska on

    It is funny how geographic boundaries define words. I was speaking to a well-educated Inupiaq woman from Utqiakvik who actually said that most Alaskans reject the use of the term Inuit and prefer Eskimo. As a Canadian, this kind of made me cringe because we were taught in our schools that it is offensive (same with Native or Indian). A quick google search, however, will show that the term Inuit is seldom used in Alaska. Our “Arctic Winter Games” here in Canada are Called the “Eskimo Indian Olympics” in Alaska!

    Let the Inuit decide the fate of this dog.

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