Alaskan airline backtracks on new branding
“I’m not your Eskimo”
We’re nobody’s Eskimo.
That’s the message a group of Inupiat or Alaskan Inuit made loud and clear in response to a regional airline’s rebranding last week.
Alaskan Air unveiled its new look Jan. 25, which included a new livery and a redesign of its well-known tail art, the image of a hooded Inupiaq who’s long been referred to as the Eskimo.
As part of the rebrand, the airline introduced the new design with the slogan “Meet Our Eskimo.”
“Our company has a unique personality and a vibrant spirit that our Eskimo has personified for almost half a century,” said Alaska Airlines CEO Brad Tilden as part of the Jan. 25 launch.
But that set off a some outrage across the American state, home to about 13,000 Inupiat, some of whom accused the airline of cultural appropriation by implying ownership over the Indigenous group.
Alaskans sent messages to the airline with the hashtag #NotYourEskimo.
“I’m not your Eskimo, @AlaskaAir,” tweeted Alison Warden, an Alaskan rapper who goes by the name AKU-MATU. “I’m Inupiaq.”
Things that will not fly: Alaska Airline's "Meet our Eskimo" campaign. pic.twitter.com/BPmFMCfsC1
— Hayden King (@Hayden_King) January 27, 2016
— angela s. cox (@angelascox) January 27, 2016
The Seattle-based airline, which services communities throughout Alaska, has hosted the iconic image on its aircraft for decades.
But the airline backtracked on its new slogan Jan. 28, issuing an apology to its clients and removing the “our” so it now reads: “Meet The Eskimo.”
“We sincerely apologise and have updated our website,” the airline wrote on its Facebook page Jan. 28. “Thanks to everyone who voiced their concern on this issue.”
Alaska Airlines said all its signage would be replaced to reflect the change.
Although the term Eskimo is more widely used in Alaska and the U.S. than Canada, there has been a more recent shift towards the use of Inupiat or the more general term Alaskan Native.
In Inuit regions of Canada, there is still debate around the term Eskimo and whether or not it is offensive, although communities largely self-identify as Inuit.
Last December, the president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Natan Obed, asked the Edmonton Eskimos football team to stop using the term Eskimo, a Cree word that means “eaters of raw meat.”
“This issue is about our right to self-determine who we are on our own terms,” Obed said. “We are not mascots or emblems.”
The football organization has agreed to meet with ITK to discuss the issue, although neither has confirmed when that will happen.