Re: Inuits and Eskimos

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Posted by Elaine on April 28, 1999 at 22:39:00:

In Reply to: Re: Inuits and Eskimos posted by Chris on April 27, 1999 at 20:56:23:

: Dear Jeff, Brian and others who may be following this thread,

: I did some research today, and here is what I was told. My Yup'ik friend told me that because the Algonquin people were in direct contact with the Canadian Inuits and used the term Eskimo in a derogatory manner, the Canadian Inuits were and are offended by it. However, by the time the word Eskimo came to Alaska, its origin and original meaning had been lost and it was just another word to the Native people here. They were never bothered by it. My Inupiat friend said that while a few people might consider it derogatory, it is not generally thought to be so. In fact, because there is no word for Yup'ik in the Inupiaq language, and the Yup'iks are not circumpolar peoples and therefore are not Inuit, they call the Yup'iks Eskimos.

: When I lived in Barrow, I thought the word "tun-uk" (my spelling) was the derogatory term for a White person. The corresponding word in Yup'ik is "gus-suk" (my spelling). I was surprised to find out fairly recently from Native friends that neither of these words is considered derogatory by the Native people. When I tried to remember why I might think it was derogatory, I realized that it was usually used to me by people who had been drinking, and in that case, it was meant to be derogatory. Our friends never used the terms because race was never an issue.

: So I guess each of us was partly right.

: Jeff and Brian, I am curious what your background/experience is? Are you Canadian, US or otherwise? Where did you get your sources for your information?

: Chris


That was interesting! Now we HAVE to define Yup'ik, right? :)
As one would expect, it means "real person" ... taken from yuk, "person." Yupiit is the plural of Yup'ik; Yuut is the plural of yuk. Chris, are Yup'ik/Yupiit plurals always a vowel-T suffix?

White person is "kass'aq" so your "tun-uk" word; would this be like calling someone an animal person???? Or plain old "animal"?
Derogatory ONLY if meant to be so?

So, in Alaska, Eskimo is fine; In Canada ... no, no! Inuit only.

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