Eskimo or Inuit
April 9, 2016 1:30 PM   Subscribe

I'm designing a book of Eskimo folk tales for a university project, and I'm wondering if I should use the term Eskimo or Inuit. My understanding is that Inuit is the correct term in Canada and Greenland because all Canadian and Greenlandic Eskimos are Inuit, but Eskimo is preferred elsewhere because it encompasses both Inuit and Yupik people. I'm in the UK, so I guess Eskimo is correct, but I'm pretty sure all of the stories I'm using are Inuit so would it make more sense to use that term?

I'm taking most of the stories from A Kayak Full of Ghosts by Lawrence Millman which uses Eskimo, as does Angela Carter's Book of Fairy Tales, but as far as I can tell all of the stories come from either Greenland or Canada, which means they're all Inuit.
posted by Chenko to Society & Culture (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I would definitely make sure to attribute the stories to the right tribes.
posted by Altomentis at 1:34 PM on April 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


"...come from either Greenland or Canada, which means they're all Inuit."

Then yes - Inuit. The term 'Eskimo' is considered pejorative (e.g. here).

I would suggest Inuit, and if you have any Yupik tales, specifically call them out.
posted by parki at 1:41 PM on April 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Eskimo is a single tribe in Alaska: it most definitely does NOT encompass any non-Eskimos, like Aleuts or Yupiks or Inuit or any of the other Native tribes --- and calling a non-Eskimo an Eskimo is akin to calling all Native Americans Cherokee, even though they're actually Navaho or Seminole or whatever.

(Source: I lived in Greenland for a year and a half, and one of the first things everyone learned was that the Greenlandic natives were Inuit, and considered being called 'Eskimo' an insult.)
posted by easily confused at 1:43 PM on April 9, 2016 [10 favorites]


My understanding is that Eskimo is one of those words which is ok as a self-descriptor, and somewhat commonly used in Alaska, but as a white person I would never call someone Eskimo who didn't self-describe that way, and I would strongly urge against using that term. Here's a short thing from University of Alaska Fairbanks on the issue.
posted by jessamyn at 1:44 PM on April 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


Oh yeah, you need to attribute correctly to the area or group the story comes from and not use the term Eskimo at all. It's not considered perjorative everywhere but it is a lot of places and it's not appropriate for your use at all.
posted by fshgrl at 1:45 PM on April 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Can't you ask the publisher (or whoever commissioned the work)? Sure there is a subject-matter expert on your team.
posted by My Dad at 2:00 PM on April 9, 2016


It's a student project – there's no team and no publisher.
posted by Chenko at 2:03 PM on April 9, 2016


Eskimo is a single tribe in Alaska: it most definitely does NOT encompass any non-Eskimos, like Aleuts or Yupiks or Inuit or any of the other Native tribes --

I believe Yupiks in Alaska often consider themselves Eskimo, but not Inuit. (But Athabascans, Tlingits, Aleuts, etc would not be called Eskimos.)

You could ask the folks at the Alaska Native Language Center, who, incidentally, describe themselves as "It is internationally known and recognized as the major center in the United States for the study of Eskimo and Northern Athabascan languages.", which supports the assertion that in Alaska, 'Eskimo' is a term accepted by many (but not all) members of the Inuit, Iñupiat and various Yupik groups.

On the other hand, there is some controversy And more thoughtshere

(So, the best answer is find out what native group each story came from and use that. ---and given that the question is complex even in Alaska, I probably wouldn't try to use Alaska norms in the UK.

I'm not clear on the difference between Inuit and Iñupiat, either, or if there are non-Inuit native groups in Greenland.)
posted by leahwrenn at 3:30 PM on April 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


DO NOT USE THE E WORD.
posted by PinkMoose at 3:31 PM on April 9, 2016


DO NOT USE THE E WORD

It's more complicated than that, really. If it were an Alaskan student project, "the E word" would actually be the correct choice.

posted by leahwrenn at 3:34 PM on April 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm in the UK, so I guess Eskimo is correct,...

I don't know why you think this is so. Eskimo was and is common, but Inuit is definitely known and growing well in recognition. Indeed, I remember even as a child hearing that Eskimo was not the right word and even insulting, and that was 25 years ago.
posted by Emma May Smith at 3:44 PM on April 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


I grew up thinking of 'Eskimo' as offensive too, but the books I'm taking the stories from (which were published in the last decade) use the term, so that's why I assumed it was correct.
posted by Chenko at 3:56 PM on April 9, 2016


I grew up thinking of 'Eskimo' as offensive too, but the books I'm taking the stories from (which were published in the last decade) use the term, so that's why I assumed it was correct.

I work in this field. While I’ve not read either of the books you linked, they don’t appear to be “proper” works either coming from the communities themselves or by academics who specialize in Native American cultures (let alone Alaskan). In other words, both books appear to have been compiled by outsiders.

I trust ANLC for an authoritative opinion on this. Here’s Lawrence Kaplan’s answer on the ANLC website: “Inuit or Eskimo: Which name to use?”
posted by D.C. at 4:17 PM on April 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


Really, though, if it were a book I was editing I’d use the specific group names whenever possible and perhaps resort to a phrase like “peoples of the arctic and subarctic North America” if i really needed to refer to all of the groups from Alaska to Greenland, with shorter phrases like “the northern peoples” or “the northern groups” in the paragraphs that follow.
posted by D.C. at 4:30 PM on April 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


The term Canada uses to cover all native peoples is 'First Nations', but that's not used in the US; here Natives would be the general term.

Whatever you do, don't use 'Eskimo' as an umbrella for all northern peoples.
posted by easily confused at 4:32 AM on April 11, 2016


There have been a lot of US/Alaska answers in this thread, but the answer in Canada is unambiguously no, never use anything but the name of the nation. The Inuit Brotherhood (Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami), gives as definitive a statement on the matter as you're going to get in the Canadian context: "Following accepted practice and as a general rule, the term Inuit replaces the term Eskimo."

As well, in Canada, First Nations is not correct usage for the Inuit. In Canada there are three main divisions of indigenous peoples: First Nations, the Inuit and the Métis. They're all distinctly different.

Officially, in Federal Government materials, the indigenous peoples of Canada are to be referred to formally in the following ways: collectively as indigenous (aboriginal is acceptable in older materials, but shouldn't be used in the future; the afn through consultations feels this is more properly used by other peoples, however they both translate to the same word---autochtones---in french), First Nations for members of those nations, Inuit and Métis. "Indian" has a specific legal meaning in legislation, but shouldn't be used outside of that context.
posted by bonehead at 7:38 AM on April 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


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