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Attention Edmonton Eskimos: Inuit are not mascots

Natan Obed is the President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Canada's national Inuit organization

As the leader of the 60,000 Canadian Inuit in this country, I am compelled to take a stand in solidarity with all other Indigenous peoples calling for an end to the use of our peoples as sports team mascots. For Inuit, our concern is with Edmonton's CFL team, which continues to use the outdated term Eskimos as their moniker.

The word Eskimo is not only outdated, it is now largely considered a derogatory term. It has never been our term. When Inuit mobilized in the 1970s to protect our rights, we started using the term Inuit to describe our people because that is our way of describing ourselves. No other society has a right to impose their terminology upon us.

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We have overcome many colonial policies towards our society and culture to stand as proud Canadian Inuit today. There are no more residential schools that take our children away from our parents at the age of five. We have the right to vote. We are not forced to relocate where we live upon the whims of government. At one time in Canadian society, these things were determined by others to be what was best for Inuit - or, should I say best for Eskimos.

The Edmonton team name - that is drawing even more attention, now that the team is going to the Grey Cup - was not chosen by Inuit. And I reject any arguments that the name is benign and has positive intent to align the Edmonton football team culture with Inuit strength or spirit.

The CFL football team does not honour our culture, our history, our present, or our future. The name is an enduring relic of colonial power. That force enabled Indigenous identity to be appropriated and redefined as a branding tool for non-Indigenous entertainment, during a time when our children were taken from us, our lands were being developed without our consent, and we were being moved around as human flagpoles for Canadian Arctic Sovereignty.

Indigenous people deserve to be treated with respect and as equals. In the spirit of the enormous amount of work that has been done in Canada to achieve true and lasting reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians, I call on the owners of the Edmonton franchise to change the team name to a non-Indigenous moniker.

I call on all media to stop using the term Eskimos in your reporting so as to respect Inuit. I also call on all owners or sports groups that still use Indigenous peoples as mascots - the Cleveland Indians, the Washington Redskins, to just name a few. To these organizations: The time is now to be on the right side of history. Change your name.

Let's do our part in the world of sports to help move away from all dehumanizing and disrespectful legacies of the past and move towards true and lasting reconciliation. Indigenous people and our cultures deserve to be treated with dignity, equality and respect just as much on the field of play as anywhere else in 2015.

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