Eskimos name under fire

Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed has come to the defence of his CFL team's name. (Codie McLachlan/QMI...

Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed has come to the defence of his CFL team's name. (Codie McLachlan/QMI Agency)

ALLISON SALZ, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:44 AM ET

EDMONTON - Backlash over use of the phrase "You are talking Eskimo" in an animated video about the Canadian Wheat Board now has Edmonton Eskimos coach Kavis Reed playing defence.

Use of the word Eskimo has some in Edmonton calling for the Green and Gold to find a new name, but Reed says the name shouldn't be seen in a negative light.

"I just don't see it that way. When people use a name that is related to a certain group of people, in many respects, it's seen as an honour," he said Wednesday.

Conservative MP David Anderson pulled the video which was posted on his website, which features a conversation between a fictional wheat board executive and a Saskatchewan farmer who wanted to sell his grain to a baker in Calgary.

"Slow down young man, you are talking Eskimo," the executive said three times when the farmer criticized the board's policy. Anderson has also issued an apology.

James Dempsey, a professor at the University of Alberta's Native Studies, acknowledges that if used incorrectly, the term can carry negative undertones.

He says many groups, including the Inuit, have reverted to names in their own languages, which he says can be quite hard to pronounce for most.

Dempsey also says there are also groups that still use words, that could now be considered politically incorrect.

"In interviewing elderly natives, they still use the word Indian freely. And they still use the term Eskimo in Alaska."

He adds that it's likely to cause more confusion before it becomes clear.

Karliin Aariak, is Inuit, and lives in Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut.

She says the video itself clearly degrades the Inuit people, and portrays them in a negative way.

Aariak adds that the term Eskimo wasn't one her people chose, it was given to them, and for that reason the term has been replaced with the word Inuit.

In 1999 Bernie Adams, an Inuit man, unsuccessfully tried to get the Edmonton Eskimos to change their name.

Terry Lusty, a Metis Historian in Edmonton, agrees that the word carries negative undertones and has no place in a team name.

"Why don't they change it. Get a new name. It has no relevance," he said.

But fans on the street didn't seem to agree, and most said that the name isn't intended to be carried with a negative weight.

"Living in Edmonton, where we do have the Eskimos as a sports team, when we do use the word Eskimo, it's not in a derogatory way," said Jenny Smith. "I don't think anyone should take it personally, it's not meant that way."

"No I don't think it's a derogatory phrase. I suppose it depends on how (Anderson) used it." said Larry Bracke, who added that he certainly didn't think it warranted a name change.

The 13-time Grey Cup champion Eskimos were formed in 1949.

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