Eskimo or Inuit?

Today the name “Eskimo” is still commonly used to describe people of the Arctic. These people are basically divided into two major groups: the Inuit, who live mainly in Greenland, Canada and the north-western Alaska and the Yuit present primarily in the central Alaska, the Alaska Pacific coast and the Chukotka Peninsula. Both groups come from Asia and they do not belong to American Indians.

The name of “Eskimo” is not derived from the language which was used the original inhabitants of the Arctic. Initially it was thought that the name was given by the Abnaki Indians, and meant “eating raw meat.” It has a pejorative meaning. Currently, however, it is believed that the name comes from the Ojibwa Indians and means “using snowshoes.”

Because of the foreign origin of the name “Eskimo”, during the Polar Conference, held in 1977, it was decided to use the name “Inuit” to describe all people of the Arctic. At the same time the local names could be used as well. In consequence, the name “Eskimo” is widely used in Alaska and is has no pejorative meaning. In turn, in Canada and Greenland the word “Eskimo” is considered offensive. Thus in Canada the word “Inuit” is used to describe indigenous peoples of northern Canada and in Greenland – word “Kalaallisut“.

“Mitologie Świata. Eskimosi” Teresa Walendziak

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