Eskimo Pie Announces Name Change – Is “Eskimo” Really Derogatory?

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Amidst an already crazy week with Aunt Jemima, Cream of Wheat, and Butterworth’s announcing name and logo changes because of “racial stereotypes,” Eskimo Pie announced that they would also be changing their name.

Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream, which owns Eskimo Pies, explained that the term “Eskimo” is “derogatory.”

In a statement to Reuters and the Wall Street Journal, Elizabell Marquez, the head of marketing for the company said, “We are committed to being a part of the solution on racial equality, and recognize the term is derogatory.”

The term Eskimo is a commonly used word used to describe the native people of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Siberia.

Originally people thought that the term “Eskimo” was derogatory because it was meant to describe a person who ate raw meat. This gave off the impression of violence and barbarianism.

Now, linguists are finding that the term “Eskimo” might have origins in an Ojibwa word which means, “to net snowshoes.”

Now, what about the word “Inuit?” Should this be an alternative to the word “Eskimo?”

In Inupiag, the term “Inuit” means “people” and is mainly used in Canada and northern parts of Alaska.

While it may be viewed as the more “politically correct” term to use, it still doesn’t describe the people of other arctic regions across the globe.

Just as there are other languages, there are other dialects for the native people in the arctic regions. Dialects like Yup’ik.

Yup’ik is used by the Yupik indigenous arctic peoples who reside in places like Siberia, Saint Lawrence Island, and southwestern Alaska.

There is no word in Yup’ik for the term “Inuit.”

By labeling the word “Eskimo” as derogatory and racist, you are taking away a word that many people use to describe themselves and the alternative certainly appears less inclusive than the word “Eskimo.”

Oscar Alexie, an assistant professor of Yup’ik with the Alaska Native Language Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks location explained, “It’s hard to see the word falling out of use in Alaska, in part because it remains a common definition for a broad group of people.

The professor continued on to explain, “It would be almost like telling me to quit using the word pickle.” He added, “You have sweet pickles, dill pickles, you have every kind of pickle. But if I had to quit using the word pickle, what would I use?”

John Chase, a Kotzebue resident who helped co-found a company that sells t-shirts with catchy slogans like, “Eskimos for Jesus,” also runs a blog titled, “Eskimo Power.”

He explained, “If someone calls me Eskimo, I’d agree with them.” Chase added, “But I’d say, ‘I’m Yup’ik Eskimo.’ There’s a sense of pride in telling others about your cultural identity, and that’s what young people are tuning into when they want to be called Yupik or Inupiaq.”

Many arctic people such as Mr. Chase use the term Eskimo to describe themselves.

While you might be led to believe that using the term “Eskimo” will earn you the title of a racist, in fact, people are generally not offended by the word.

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