This is Corky and the Juice Pigs performing their song “Eskimo.” If you’re not familiar with the song, or if you haven’t heard it in a while, then Torontoist should warn you: this clip may be offensive to the Inuit, gays, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Ric Ocasek, seals, and anyone without a sense of humour.
This comes up, not because Torontoist was jonesing for novelty songs from the mid-90’s, but because we recently learned that a high school student in Inuvik, NWT was told that she could not perform this song at a school fundraiser. The reason she was given was that her Inuvialuit elders find the word “Eskimo” offensive.
At Torontoist, our first thought was that “Gay Eskimos to World: Don’t Call Us Eskimos” would have to officially be The Most Quintessentially Canadian Story EVER, narrowly beating out “Dispute Between Canada and Denmark Ends Peacefully.” But maybe we’re just insensitive. So we decided to look into the use of the word “Eskimo” a little further.
Most Canadian schoolchildren have grown up being taught that “Eskimo” is a pejorative term meaning “eaters of raw meat.” Well, it turns out that this etymology is widely disputed. In fact, the northern people of Alaska generally prefer “Eskimo” to “Inuit,” since they are not speakers of the Inuit language.
Of course, Torontoist supports the right of people to be offended by whatever they want to be offended by, but it does not seem like “Eskimo” should be placed in the same category as other racial epithets that have been used to marginalize or express hatred for various groups throughout history. No one says “Eskimo” with the intent to offend and it certainly is not a word that should keep a student from raising money for her school.
Oh, and we should also point out that many aboriginal people prefer the term “two-spirited” to “gay” or “queer”, just in case you want something else to worry about from a political correctness perspective.