Whether you voted for the man or not, you have to admire the steel it took to stand up in the legislative assembly and applaud the Edmonton Eskimos for deciding to keep their team nickname. To tell those who were offended by the Eskimos nickname to relax and take a Valium and announce to the world that he’s darn proud to be a “true Eskimo.”
Such was the scene in the legislative assembly when Rankin Inlet South (and Nunavut cabinet minister) MLA Lorne Kusugak addressed the situation last week.
I don’t hesitate for one second to say I was proud of the man for what he said and how he said it – open, honestly and direct – knowing full well there would be some in the North who would try to make him look bad for it.
Hopefully, this is the last we’ll hear of the issue, but somehow I doubt it. Those offended by anything these days seem to have a whole lot of free time on their hands, the desire to remain offended for very long periods of time and the need to let everyone know about it.
I have written in this space about 44 times a year for the past 22 years and have never once succumbed to the imagined level of self-importance required to speak on behalf of Inuit.
No need to. Inuit have their own voice, they’re the only ones truly qualified to speak to the Inuit condition – either positively or negatively – and they’re the best in the world at it.
That being said, it was tough for me to keep mum as Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Natan Obed (a man I truly respect and admire) kept hammering away at the issue for years, trying (let’s be honest here) to create the impression that this was a major bone of contention and source of controversy for many, many Inuit.
I can look any person in the eye and say over about a three-year period, I asked many, many Inuit from Rankin Inlet and every other Kivalliq community if they were offended by Edmonton’s CFL team being nicknamed the Eskimos, and not one single, solitary person responded in the affirmative. Not one!
In fact, the vast majority I asked claimed to be proud of the fact because the Eskimos nickname in football represented toughness, strength and the burning drive to overcome any obstacle put before them.
There was, during this whole process, a definite disconnect between Inuit of the south and Inuit of the North.
I humbly apologize to anyone offended by that statement, but I believe it is the truth.
In addition to Kusugak addressing the situation in such an honest and direct manner as a “true Eskimo,” another positive in the affair’s undercurrent is how many bright young Inuit minds shared the sentiment of having bigger fish to fry.
And, I never got the impression from one of them that they were belittling or dismissing out of hand the stance Obed and a relatively small number of like-minded individuals took on the issue.
Respect for each other’s right to express their opinion runs deep in Inuit culture.
What they did see was a lot of time and energy being spent on an issue that could have been far better served addressing one of the many challenges still facing Inuit and all Nunavummiut as our territory still finds its way moving forward.
And for that, I applaud them.
At the end of the day, the issue has run its course. The matter is, or at least should be, put to rest.
So, to share a sentiment, there are far bigger fish to fry in the form of far more complex and pressing issues in need of solutions.
Hopefully, everyone can shake hands, accept the Eskimos outcome and turn their attention to those.
Food for thought.