EDMONTON – Canada’s national Inuit organization says the storied Edmonton Eskimos Canadian Football League franchise should change its name.
“It isn’t right for any for any team to be named after an ethnic group,” said Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.
The term Eskimo is a relic of a past in which Inuit people had no control over their lives or even what they were called, said Obed.
“This is part of the past. It isn’t part of the present and shouldn’t be part of the future.”
Although questions have been raised about the team’s name before, Inuit groups have always stayed out of it. Obed said it’s time that changed — especially with the franchise being featured in this weekend’s Grey Cup championship game in Winnipeg.
“With the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action fresh in our minds, all sectors of society should be contributing to the ongoing reconciliation,” said Obed.
Team officials consistently diffused the issue by saying they have never had an official complaint about the name. They could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.
Obed — who played junior and university level hockey in the U.S. — said he understands sports fans are passionate about their teams and their history.
“The history can be the history,” he said. “We don’t have to apologize for believing and cheering and saying a name that is now not acceptable.
“But as values in society change, sports values can change, too.”
Although American Inuit continue to use Eskimo, Obed said Canadians left that name behind at about the same time they began negotiating their land claim in the 1970s.
“When we mobilized and decided to fight for our rights, we decided to use the word ‘Inuit,’ because that is our name. No other group of people has the right to tell us who we are and name us.”
The word Eskimo is a vestige of the days when Inuit lives were controlled from the south, said Obed.
“If anyone was to call me an Eskimo, I would be offended by that.”
—Follow Bob Weber on Twitter at @row1960