Petition asks children’s TV channel for more accuracy about the Arctic
“I want Inuit to feel like they’re not being constantly stereotyped"
When Lilliana Taipana settles down to watch cartoons, Treehouse TV is one of her favourite channels.
And whenever a cartoon refers to life in the Arctic and its Inuit inhabitants, mom Skye Greenwood makes sure 20-month-old Lilliana is paying attention.
But inevitably, Greenwood ends up being disappointed.
“I’ve noticed that whenever Treehouse airs an episode about the Inuit or Arctic, it’s always a very stereotypical depiction of Inuit people,” said Greenwood from her home in British Columbia.
One of Lilliana’s favourite shows, Bubble Guppies, tells viewers that it is wintery and cold all year round in the Arctic, Greenwood said — with no reference to Arctic summers and the rich tundra life.
Dora the Explorer used the term “Eskimo” to describe the Inuit in another episode, Greenwood recalled, and she’s seen other cartoons present penguins as Arctic creatures — a species that is only native to the southern hemisphere.
“I find myself getting frustrated and even angry,” Greenwood said. “I want Lilliana to see her favorite TV shows being respectful and considerate toward her culture, so that she can accurately learn about her culture and not be bombarded by stereotypes.”
Greenwood had to learn about that culture too. A native of B.C., she moved to Kugluktuk as a teen, where she met her boyfriend, Manok Taipana.
Lilliana was born in Kugluktuk, although the family has since relocated to Castlegar, where Greenwood and Taipana do their best to teach their daughter about Inuit culture.
“It’s very important to us,” Greenwood said. “Especially since there are so many Inuit living in the south, they should be able to see their own culture depicted properly.”
The couple does their own cultural activities with their daughter; Greenwood wears Lilliana in an amautik, while the girl’s father speaks to her in Inuinnaqtun.
But living in the South makes access to Inuit culture a challenge.
After watching the Arctic-themed episode of Bubble Guppies a few weeks ago, Greenwood finally sent an email to Treehouse TV to vent her frustrations.
When she had no response, she took the internet to create a public petition asking the Canadian specialty channel to start airing a more accurate portrait of the Canadian Arctic.
The petition, posted at change.org, has gathered over one hundred signatures, from Inuit and non-Inuit across the country.
One of the petition’s signatories, Jodi Durdle from Iqaluit, wrote that parents must teach their children not to believe everything they see on television.
“But it is just as important that those involved in developing children’s television shows DO the necessary research,” wrote Durdle, who has two young daughters.
“My nieces & nephews watch this channel and I don’t want them getting mixed messages about their culture,” wrote Sandra Naqitarvik, also from Iqaluit. “Inuit also don’t kiss by rubbing their noses in our area.”
From Calgary, Cherryl Smith wrote that “giving (children) false or misleading information can lead to discrimination and misunderstanding.”
Greenwood hopes her petition can gather 1,500 signatures.
“I’m hoping that will catch the attention of Treehouse, and everyone, really,” she said. “I want Inuit to feel like they’re not being constantly stereotyped.”