Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut April 19, 2017 - 4:00 pm

U.S. group Eskimeaux drops its name after online confrontation

Tanya Tagaq urged group to rethink its use of the "slur against Inuit"

NUNATSIAQ NEWS
A Brooklyn-based band called Eskimeaux, left, changed its name this week, days after throat singer Tanya Tagaq called out the group for using what she called a slur against Inuit. (FILE IMAGES)
A Brooklyn-based band called Eskimeaux, left, changed its name this week, days after throat singer Tanya Tagaq called out the group for using what she called a slur against Inuit. (FILE IMAGES)

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.

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(44) Comments:

#1. Posted by Inuk on April 19, 2017

Saving the world, one contrived moral victory at a time.

#2. Posted by Wow on April 19, 2017

Smith comes out looking like the bigger person in this exchange. Corrected her mistake right away.

Tagaq was over the top by calling them “hipster” (which was necessary, used to disrespect them) and saying “you are not Eskimo”...which sounds more like something Cathy Towtongie would say on her The Apprentice Inuk Edition show.

#3. Posted by There must be a better way on April 19, 2017

I appreciated Gagnon’s explanation of why she chose the name Eskimeaux, and I don’t understand what Tanya has against it since the word has obvious meaning for Gagnon.

Tanya, I know you are trying to open minds, but seriously, you are starting to come off as a petty complainer and a whiner.

Some might even call you a bully as you are calling people out publicly and almost forcing them to agree with you in order not to feel your wrath.  You have a good message Tanya, isn’t there a better way to get it across?

#4. Posted by Lester Bangs on April 19, 2017

I agree with the above commenters and I think Tanya has jumped the shark on this one.

She comes across looking like a school yard bully that’s picking on the shy new girl who shows up trembling on the first day of class.

Enough already. Stick to your throat singing or your vocal art music or whatever you want to call it and leave politics to people who know what they are talking about.

#5. Posted by Crystal Clarity on April 19, 2017

I applaud Tanya for pointing out these things but I think the mirror should be flipped over sometimes too. Inuit have no problem appropriating from other peoples/cultures, copying styles and designs, logos and emblems etc and several native designers are taking obvious European, American, and Canadian designs and slapping native designs, emblems etc on them and calling them “cultural” or “infusion”. If you basically copy the dress designed by Chloe and slap a Haida border on it, or you make a parka and use the colours and logo or your favourite hockey team, take a pair of tights some one else designed and slap some uluit or tattoo designs on it etc…. are you not appropriating? Did you have permission to do that? When you take Johnny Reid’s song and translate it into Inuktitut and worse put it on your own album make buck off it and put it all over the web did you get permission to do that? Think about that Tanya and everyone else who is jumping on the “cultural appropriation” theme.

#6. Posted by Generational on April 19, 2017

Ms. Tagaq can’t speak for all Inuit. Most elders I know prefer (and are proud) to be referred to as an “Eskimo”. I’ve had more than one elder get upset with me when I called them an “Inuit”. I don’t do it anymore. Seems to be a generation thing. Inuit is the modern term.

#7. Posted by Dr. Mad about whatever on April 19, 2017

I’m sure that inside the echo chamber inhabited by Tanya and her activist friends she has accomplished a great justice here, at the very least she’s bolstered her street cred.

Win or lose, her original tweets put on full display the kind of intellectual vacuity those who have watched her for the past few years have come to expect.

“Fuck PETA”

Sure but, they support the indigenous seal hunt Whatever… good sound byte, “fuck the man” k.. let’s move along. 
I recall her social media spat against ‘Black Pussy’ where she attempted to control the argument by weaponizing her faux “doctorate”. 

Dear Tanya, if you are reading this, an honorary doctorate is not a real doctorate. You need to know that.

Receiving that did not magically bestow you with, or even indicate, any intellectual capacity at all. As evidenced by your ongoing childlike rants against… well, whatever!

#8. Posted by Qallunaat on April 19, 2017

Germans call themselves Deutsche..
Italians Italiano
Dutch Nederlander
Hungarians Magyar
Eskimos Inuit

..When there is no more TB, overcrowding, suicides, hunger, preventable disease in Inuit Nunangat, then maybe you can waste this much energy crying about what non-inuktut speakers refer to you as.

By the way, did the term Eskimo not originate in the Cree language?

#9. Posted by i eskimo on April 19, 2017

Come on Tanya, this is absolutely unnecessary.

How would you feel if I told you to stop your lousy dancing.

#10. Posted by Between Two Worlds on April 19, 2017

Can you please tell me what exactly “Eskimo” means to you Tanya?  I’ve had people tell me it’s people who eat raw meat.  Fact of the matter is, we do eat raw meat.  What is so offensive about that?  We even eat fermented meat.  All over the world, people eat much more “delicacy” meat as we do.  Maybe even more so, they having the soil to grow herbs to flavour them, where we do not.

Mr. Lester Bangs said it so right, when he said you come out like a school yard bully, defending Inuit as though we asked you to defend us.

We did not ask you to.

#11. Posted by Praithie on April 19, 2017

I like to eat suchi, raw smoked duck, and fresh raw meat especially with
Tabasco.
In my Cree culture that makes me an eater of raw flesh, or Iskima.
Inuit get your facts right, and go easy on the Tabasco.
What are you going to bitch about next?

#12. Posted by Fix your life on April 20, 2017

I’m an Eskimos forever. And it’s true, as I experienced it, most good folk, liked to be called Eskimo, no issues. But a brazen new group, out to do no good with their lives, stick on the political correctness of Inuit. I call into play this new group, to focus on making your life better, rather than making nothing out of nothing, except bad feelings among the other cultures.

#13. Posted by I weep for our future... on April 20, 2017

I hope Tanya and her friends read this. Just because you are offended by something doesn’t mean you’re right.

Everything has elements appropriated from something in this world. Whether it be cultural identities, inventions, music, etc. Everything has bits of something from somewhere else. It must be a sad life getting upset about every little thing you take as a slight against you. Please come down off your high horse and do us a favour.

#14. Posted by Eskimo name on April 20, 2017

Why not get the Montreal Canadians to change their name? Is it insulting that they use Canadians in their name , like Edmonton Eskimo?

#15. Posted by Dance no more on April 20, 2017

Inuit have taken the Irish and Scottish dance, along with the accordion, and made a mess out of it.

#16. Posted by Iqiana on April 20, 2017

Sure, Tanya could have sent a private message before publicly shaming Gabrielle. But 90% of the time when you try to first be subtle and tactful you are dismissed.
I can sympathize why Tanya would rather get straight to the public open discussion to expedite results. She is constantly monitoring this stuff and keeping this discussion alive, especially when so many of the older generation are happy to be reduced to cariacaturizations.

Also Crystal Clarity, you’ve got muddy perceptions. The discourse about appropriation is about power. period. The clothes you buy from any mid-to-low range retailer are knock offs of trends that were first on the runway. Why do the large fashion houses not interject? Because it doesn’t affect them. That level of power isn’t something you can appropriate, therefore its relevance in discussions of cultural appropriation as oppression is irrelevant.

#17. Posted by Kris on April 20, 2017

The exchange that occurred between Ms. Tagaq and Ms. Smith seems to have been resolved between them and this is important. I would sincerely hope that Ms. Tagaq would offer additional support to this young artist, because there may be some disruptions from the name change. I respectfully suggest that Ms. Tagaq take O on tour for a few shows in Canada, ideally in the North, in a effort to show additional support and to facilitate positive cultural exchanges. In this, Ms. Tagaq would be following up on supporting the changes made through her activism and she would most certainly be setting a good example for youth. We all have our opinions, but we must always keep in mind that the youth will follow us, so we must be good role models.

#18. Posted by The fool on the hill on April 20, 2017

Tanya claims victory and says she got respect over a group who were already in the process of changing their name. 

Probably because the name Eskimeaux was hard to say and spell in internet searches. And maybe because no one knew what it was. 

Then along comes mad Tanya but instead backfires and skyrocketing the new O up the charts. I know I will now buy Ó new music.

Reminds me of the old Beatles song… The fool on the hill.

#19. Posted by Piitarsuaq on April 20, 2017

Tanya, quit it already.  You don’t speak for me, nor the many others who actually speak Inuktut.  You did this for your own attention getting desire, which, unfortunately, the media is happy to give you, more likely because it helps your career.

I support your career, however, that is besides the point.  Even if you spoke the language, which you don’t, you still wouldn’t be right. 

I, like many others who have been silenced by this “political correctness” that you espouse, have not a single issue with the word Eskimeaux being used by any entity, organization, people, or a musical band.  Taimannaikkaangavit upinnarunniiqpalliatuinnaqtutit.

#20. Posted by Gyges on April 20, 2017

#16 Is that what happened (re: public vs private messaging)? Or are you just trying to weave a softer yarn?

I’ve followed Tanya’s public rants over the years. I find they can be ridiculous spectacles at times. But that’s probably what she thinks is needed to be an important ‘voice’. No one pays attention to soft messaging. Public humiliation sends a much stronger message, right? 

Suggesting that the older generations are satisfied with being reduced to “cariacaturizations” (sic) demonstrates the kind of arrogance that comes with knowing things before making any effort to understand them. A mark of your youth?  That would be my guess.

#21. Posted by Gillis? on April 20, 2017

When did Tanya Tagaq Gillis become Tanya Tagaq?

#22. Posted by Northern Guy on April 20, 2017

Ms. Tagak needs to be more thoughtful before publicly voicing her opinion. The term “Eskimo” may be considered a slur by her and other Inuit within Canada however it has relevance in other contexts. It is my understanding that the Indigenous Inuit and Yupik of Alaska commonly refer to themselves as “Eskimos”. If Ms. Smith has indigenous heritage stemming from Alaska then she has the right to refer to herself as an Eskimo. The dig about “hipsters” caricaturizes Ms. Smith and her group and reinforces Ms. Tagak’s obvious lack of sensitivity; while publicly shaming someone into supporting your position is not an example of respect it is an example of bullying.

#23. Posted by Thankful to Tanya! on April 20, 2017

Eskimo:  Cree word meaning: “Raw Meat Eaters.”

Inuit:  Inuit/Inuktitut word meaning:  “People.”

50% of Inuit/ Eskimos prefer to be called “Eskimos” and this is mostly older people or Alaskans.

Other 50% of Inuit/ Eskimos prefer to be called “Inuit” and they are mostly younger generation Inuit/ Eskimos so if you’re from Nunavut, “Inuit” is being used more predominantly!

Tanya….thank you!!

#24. Posted by Inuinnaqtun....not Inuktitut on April 20, 2017

Piitarsuaq:  She is from the land of Inuinnaqtun which is a whole different language than your precious Inuktitut.  Big Difference Bud!

In the spirit of Inuit Societal Values, I apologize for Piitarsuaq’s total disrespect of the Inuinnaqtun language, Tanya!

#25. Posted by Blame on April 20, 2017

Everyone blaming Tanya for what she believes is not correct, I am fan of her work but at least she bring up an issue to educate people. Everyone acting like the ignorant person is the poor white victim in all of this. I am an Inuk and like a lot people that used the term Eskimo was used during the 60’s to describe us in a not so flattering way. It dehumanizes us, we are more than raw meat eaters, we are a strong society with values and believes that make us who we are.

#26. Posted by eskimo joe on April 20, 2017

do gooders, support a better cause; like breakfast programs at nunavut schools. I am not into that kind of music so don’t care about “what’s in a name…” . isn’t there a better cause? say soup kitchens perhaps…or tax reform in this country. or…new mp?

#27. Posted by Tununiq on April 20, 2017

Hey #24 Tanya’s mothers family is from north Baffin, some lived in Resolute, but are originally from Pond Inlet area. Innuinaqtun is not her mothers language

#28. Posted by PROUD TRUE ESKIMO CAMBRIDGE BAY NU. on April 20, 2017

GABRIELLE SMITH
Call your music group whatever you wish to call it. Be strong!
Some people are very proud to be called Eskimo,a good Cree name.
Tanya’s second name is Gillis. Is she ashamed to use it? It is a good
Celtic name.
Some native performers are jealous of your success.
I wish our leaders and high profile people would help with the real
problems in Nunavut. No luck, have to depend on Canadian taxpayer
as usual. Thank God for them.
Take care Gabrielle,  you owe no one anything.

#29. Posted by What? on April 20, 2017

I am an old Inuk woman and from Baffin. I wasn’t brought up listening what she is doing on the stage. Whenever, she is doing something, what ever it is, I always turned off the TV. People listen to that.

#30. Posted by Western Nunavut on April 20, 2017

Tununiq, her ancestors are from North Baffin but she grew up in Cambridge Bay.  That is her home!!

#31. Posted by from Gjoa on April 20, 2017

What does it means to be an Inuk in Canada or an eskimo in the USA? Many of these so-called spoke people, barely have any Inuk/eskimo heritage. They are mostly of European ancestry. Tanya is out of order in telling other people of indigenous heritage how to label themselves. Even Tanya Gillis is overplaying her hand because she is failing to properly represent the oppressive behavior of her imperialistic European ancestors. The regular inuit people are some of the most accepting people in the world.

#32. Posted by Today's Throatsingers on April 20, 2017

I’m a young man from Baffin Island.  I wasn’t brought up totally traditionally and I love contemporary music and art and I LOVE Tanya’s music.  She has put in her own twist and made traditional throatsinging more enjoyable for the younger generation. 

Old Inuit People who love their traditions - most of them failed to pass on their knowledge and love of traditional throatsinging songs so I have no idea about what #29 is really talking about.  I know I love the throatsinging songs that are being sung today by today’s generation.

#33. Posted by Yum raw meat and fish on April 20, 2017

Ok, we eat raw meat and fish, so good and nutritional. Come along a group of people that live very close proximity to us, and they identify us as raw eaters. Beautiful I think. Are we ashamed or something, to deny this description? We are raw eaters, hey, why not call us raw eaters instead.

#34. Posted by We the Eskimo on April 20, 2017

Eskimo sounds so alive with enduring the elements , and so powerful. Inuit sounds like, asking for government hand outs, and become southernized. Let’s embrace the Eskimo.

#35. Posted by jl on April 20, 2017

Ms. Tagaq is quite the drama queen. I vote Ms. Gillis be the sole defender of all unnecessary political correctness.

#36. Posted by Clarity please on April 20, 2017

So if Gabrielle Smith is half indigenous, then she is just as indigenous as Tanya Gillis?

If that’s the case, who is Tanya to bully her about her identity? And why is this a discussion about ‘appropriation’?

#37. Posted by Mikijukuluk on April 21, 2017

Eskimo Kiss to you all. I am an Eskimo and I am proud to be called an Eskimo, I love raw meats especially fish, aged walrus, seal meat that includes the intestines, eye ball, brain mixed with blueberries and most of all narwhale blubber. Now that is the true Eskimo!! Let’s embraces our culture and our ancestors’ are the true hero’s <3

#38. Posted by Small towner on April 21, 2017

I’ve seen a show about the north recently, and it showed Tanya for about half of the 45 min show. She seems to be very obnoxious, and loud about her opinions, while on the show. Very much of a “look at me!” type of person, so I’m not at all surprised at how she’s the “face” of Inuit activism right now, because it suits her personality just fine… as well as her ego and career. I however totally disagree with her view and actions on this topic, as well as most of her others.

#39. Posted by Inuk on April 25, 2017

Thank you for standing up for those Inuit of Nunavut, Tanya!  No one else will.

#40. Posted by Tuukittaaki on April 25, 2017

#3, I loved reading your comment!  Yes I too feel the word Eskimo is filled with wonder, resilience, vibrancy, alive out on the land where there is wonderous beautiful places and one can become one with the land of our ancestors and not in the main stream of people milling in one direction.  I am an Eskimo.  Inuit may be the younger generations word of choice.  The word INUIT in my mind’s description is the feeling of blandness, tastelessness without any pride for ones ancestors, all for one and one for self.  I still respect the choice as I hope my choice too will be respected.  Many of us do not think the word Eskimo is derogatory, it is a description from another native peoples. I think it is correct and very much to the point.  Please do not make it sound and talk for us, instead say ”  this is my personal opinion” and may not be what all Eskimos think or feel.  Tavga.

#41. Posted by Tuukittaaki on April 25, 2017

#34, I loved reading your comment!  Yes I too feel the word Eskimo is filled with wonder, resilience, vibrancy, alive out on the land where there is wonderous beautiful places and one can become one with the land of our ancestors and not in the main stream of people milling in one direction.  I am an Eskimo.  Inuit may be the younger generations word of choice.  The word INUIT in my mind’s description is the feeling of blandness, tastelessness without any pride for ones ancestors, all for one and one for self.  I still respect the choice as I hope my choice too will be respected.  Many of us do not think the word Eskimo is derogatory, it is a description from another native peoples. I think it is correct and very much to the point.  Please do not make it sound and talk for us, instead say ”  this is my personal opinion” and may not be what all Eskimos think or feel.  Tavga.

#42. Posted by Eskimo forever on April 26, 2017

#39 please read the article and the comments again!
A lot of the people of Nunavut prefer the name Eskimo and will always
use it. The comments prove it.
We have always liked that name,Eskimo, and we do not need your
permission,or Tanya Gillis approval to use it.
F.O.

#43. Posted by Old Eskimo on April 26, 2017

The name Eskimo to me means strong people,raising families,hunting
and surviving the harshest place on Earth. I love it
The name Inuit to me means people being pushed around by
anthropologists and all kinds of incompetent experts on their ego trips.
Whatever, the choice should be up to each individual.
Tanya I do enjoy your style of singing and dancing, very Eskimo!
T.B.

#44. Posted by Big Qalluks on April 27, 2017

I love Inuit.  It is like reclaiming our culture, heritage, language and tradition.  Eskimo reminds me of colonialism - being ruled by people from a land far, far away.  Good little obedient smiling Eskimos being controlled by those with big qalluks.

I’m glad younger generation now prefer Inuit to Eskimos.  One will be dying out and the other being born again!

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