The Cleveland Indians baseball team is changing its logo. Meanwhile, the Washington Redskins, an American football team, is under pressure to do away with its name. Similar demands are being directed at a Canadian Football League club—the Edmonton Eskimos. Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, is one of the most prominent voices pressing them. People are not mascots, he says. Especially derogatory representations of them.
But as he’s made this argument publically, he’s come up against a familiar rebuttal. “One of the first things that people who were against the change of name said was, ‘I know somebody who is Inuk who is okay with this,’” says Obed. “I was pitted on the radio against individuals who were supportive of the [Eskimos] name and asked why I had said something on behalf of ITK when some individuals disagreed.”
Obed was elected ITK president in 2015 by delegates from the land claim organizations representing Inuit of the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, Nunavut, Nunavik and Nunatsiavut. The statements he makes—like opposing offensive sports team names—are representative of this organization and the ITK board of directors, just as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s position is that of the democratically elected Liberal Party of Canada.
“Not all Canadians agree with what Justin Trudeau is doing, but all Canadians would respect the institutions of governance in place,” says Obed.
He speaks for Inuit in relation to Inuit democracy—and taking a position on a CFL team name is just one example that. “It’s a part of the government mechanisms within this country that have to be respected for reconciliation to happen.”