Leave the Edmonton Eskimos name alone, it’s not meant to be offensive.
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The team name Eskimos has recently come up in media time and again as potentially being derogatory and offensive, more recently by Manitoba mayor Brian Bowman who is Metis. The term Eskimo is used with appreciation rather than cultural appropriation and is inclusive of all Edmontonians, and respects aboriginals especially the Inuit.
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 about 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 Edmonton's northern latitude and frigid weather, calling the city's residents "Esquimeaux" (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.
As one can see our namesake stems from our northern location and climate, a name given to us by our friendly rivalry with Calgary. The Edmonton team never features Inuit or aboriginal mascots or faces, because that is culturally offensive, Nanook a polar bear and punter the football are the mascots. There are no headdresses, demeaning / sexy spin off traditional aboriginal costumes, harpoons, fur costumes, cheerleaders dressed in traditional Inuit clothing, themes of colonialism or oppression in this Edmonton franchise’s CFL history.
What is an Eskimo? The dictionary defines an Eskimo as:
“1. a member of an indigenous people inhabiting northern Canada, Alaska, Greenland, and eastern Siberia, traditionally living by hunting (especially of seals) and by fishing.
either of the two main languages of the Eskimo people (Inuit and Yupik), forming a major division of the Eskimo.
Totally geographically accurate definition, and nothing is more confusing then how some Inuit/ aboriginals find it an offensive word and some don’t. Some Canadian Inuit still call themselves Eskimos. Kiviaq was an Edmonton Eskimos football player, lawyer, and Inuit, he had no issues with the franchise name and what the club stood for. He even went as far as getting Edmonton to host the commonwealth games in 1970. Questioning the Eskimo name is causing a rift between aboriginals / Inuit communities themselves and non aboriginal communities today, especially when the name has united us all a community for so long. It’s apparent the name is worn with today with pride and legacy.
Other North American teams have used aboriginals / tribes as team names with mention to skin colour such as the Washington Redskins and the outdated term “Indians” such as the Cleveland Indians, they lack dialogue with aboriginals and the mindfulness the Edmonton franchise has shown all along, and those team names are CLEARLY used in a way that is inappropriate.
The Edmonton Eskimos continue to use their franchise name to support and give back to community causes like: stuff a bus to provide community meals, the war amps, Telus champions amateur football and donations to women’s shelters, perpetuating our City of Champions spirit.
When fans donn the Edmonton Eskimos name it is out of civic pride for its namesake and the community reputation. Fans endure all kinds of weather, yes even the frigid cold, for decades to watch a FUN team with a centennial legacy of culture, political correctness, entertaining plays and even some grey cup wins. The football franchise having the name of a community to bear continues to have OPEN dialogue with the Inuit and aboriginal communities and is receptive to feedback; this maintains inclusiveness and respect to the name the football club shares with the Inuit, Edmonton and aboriginal communities.
If the debate in the name is about reconciliation with our indigenous peoples and imperialism, aboriginals need to know that reconciliation is two fold, we recognize our errors and history of genocide in Canada’s past but also that the aboriginals recognize that non-aboriginals don’t all spout hate/ discrimination/ slander! Especially when saying the word Eskimos. There is remorse for Canada’s past actions and maybe one day the aboriginal communities can forgive the past and heal but there needs to be a recognition now that today the word Eskimo is said with civic pride not with offence and it is said in a way to showcase that warrior spirit. Indigenous peoples need to share more of their cultures and be encouraged to celebrate them!
Sign this petition to tell Don Iveson, Brian Bowmann, the Edmonton Eskimos and our aboriginal communities within Canada that the name is worn with utmost respect and pride while maintaining an inclusiveness towards ALL our communities and a nod to Edmonton’s rich history. Questioning the name is only furthering tensions and causing a rift within communities. The football club responsibly and tastefully UNIFIES communities of all colours, creeds, religions across Canada through entertaining football, charities, and mindfulness; our continued pride and support of the Edmonton Eskimo brand unites the Edmonton, Inuit, and aboriginal communities the football team represents.
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