News / Edmonton

'Overall, there is a shift': Advocate optimistic Edmonton Eskimos will change name

Norma Dunning says people are changing their way of thinking, as Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians announce they will drop controversial “Chief Wahoo” logo.

A helmet belonging to a Edmonton Eskimos player is seen on the field during a team practice session in Winnipeg on Nov. 25, 2015.

JOHN WOODS / The Canadian Press

A helmet belonging to a Edmonton Eskimos player is seen on the field during a team practice session in Winnipeg on Nov. 25, 2015.

One Inuit rights advocate is optimistic that Edmonton's football team will change its name from the Eskimos, after Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians announced this week they would drop their controversial “Chief Wahoo” logo.

“I think it should change and I think it will change,” said Norma Dunning, who sits on the advisory committee for the City of Edmonton’s Indigenous department, and also helped establish Inuit Edmontonmuit, a local Inuit cultural advocacy group.

The Cleveland Indians announced Monday they will drop Chief Wahoo, a red-faced caricature of an Indigenous man that many considered offensive, at the end of the team’s next season.

Calls for the Canadian Football League’s Eskimos to change their name have been mounting in recent years, as many Inuit people consider the word a slur.

The name became a topic of national conversation last November after Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson and Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman called for a change, followed by calls from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley for a public discussion.

“I think overall, there is a shift in people’s thinking. And I think overall they are a little more considerate,” Dunning said.

“But you’ll always have that core group of people who are devout fans and who only want that name because it’s always been that name.”

A November 2017 Insights West poll showed slightly more than one in ten Albertans believe the Eskimos name and logo is “unacceptable,” while 71 per cent find it acceptable.

Nationally, more than one in five Canadians deemed the name unacceptable.

Dunning said more calls for change might need to come from outside of Edmonton to have an impact.

“What I really believe is when people beyond Edmonton speak about the name change, it will hold more validity unfortunately,” she said.

Natan Obed, president of the national organization Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, has also called for the team to rethink its name.

Obed e-mailed Metro a statement saying, “Any action taken by sports teams toward eliminating the unacceptable use of Indigenous peoples as mascots or monikers is a step in the right direction for an inclusive society that respects diversity.”

An Edmonton Eskimos representative told Metro no one was available for comment Tuesday.

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