U.S. group Eskimeaux drops its name after online confrontation
Tanya Tagaq urged group to rethink its use of the "slur against Inuit"
Canadian Inuit may not have not reached consensus on how they feel about the term Eskimo, but a New York City folk group has.
A Brooklyn-based band called Eskimeaux changed its name this week, days after throat singer Tanya Tagaq called out the group for using what she called a slur against Inuit.
“You are not an Eskimo,” Tagaq tweeted to the group on Twitter last week, ahead of a show the band played in Toronto April 17.
“Canadians should show them how much they appreciate hipster bands using slurs to sell music.”
Eskimeaux is headed by singer and songwriter Gabrielle Smith, who previously explained that the band’s name came from her own ancestry. The musician was adopted but described her birth father as a “Tlingit Eskimo.”
Smith said she added the “eaux” ending to illustrate the way she records—“a jumble of syllables combined to make a simple sound.”
But an exchange between the band and Tagaq over the last few days convinced Smith to drop the name Eskimeaux, something she said she’s been considering now for awhile. The group now calls itself Ó.
Tagaq called the acknowledgement a “pleasant surprise.” “This is respect,” she said.
This isn’t the first time Tagaq has taken to Twitter to address Indigenous rights and cultural appropriation.
Tagaq led the charge against Montreal filmmaker Dominic Gagnon, whose documentary Of the North used Tagaq’s music and the work of other Inuit, without permission, to create what Tagaq called a “disparaging account of Inuit life.”
Gagnon later removed Tagaq’s music from the film, and eventually replaced the film with 74-minutes of total blackness and silence.
She also publicly called out Quebec gin makers Ungava Gin for their portrayal of Inuit in a recent marketing campaign.
But the use of the term Eskimo among Inuit in Canada remains a gray area.
Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Natan Obed called in 2015 for the Edmonton Eskimos football team to consider changing their name, saying the issue is about Inuit peoples’ “right to self-determine who we are on our own terms. We are not mascots or emblems.”
But the demand sparked a debate among Inuit; while some supported Obed’s position, others said they still self-identify as Eskimo. Other Inuit argued the issue simply isn’t worth the trouble.