Wednesday, May 18, 2011

New Names For Canadian Indians: Inuk, Innu and Inuit

The Globe and Mail wins awards as Canada's best newspaper, despite being a day late with the news very often. Yet, when it comes to news of Northern Canadians, it's close to, and perhaps is, the most reliable source of general news there is in Canada today.

It was with some interest, therefore, I noticed in an article today, the Governmental Department that used to be  "Indian Affairs" has been renamed. So have the Indians!  They're now Aboriginals.

When I was in high school in the seventies (gasp!) we learned in school that Aboriginals lived in Australia. Indians and Eskimos lived in northern Canada.

Since then, Canadian Eskimos have changed their name to Inuit, and Eskimos are American and inhabit American land.

Today's article brings this issue up to a whole new level.

The Canadian Government Department of Indian and Northern Affairs is now called "Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development." It includes all First Nations Indians, Inuits, Metis, and non-status Indians.

The article says the new term for Inuit Canadians is "Inuk." In addition, Canada's Inuit Organization, ITK, "issued a pre-emptive news release Wednesday...Innu and Inuit are two different people....Innu are First Nations (Indian) group located in northeastern Quebec and southern Labrador...represented by the Innu Nation." 

Now we've been told. Lesson learned. Wonder who Inuks are, if there are Innu and Inuit - according to the ITK? Just asking.

Come to think of it, the father of my high school friend was head of that government department back then. The article says, "The new working title has no impact on the Minister's responsibilities with respect to First Nations, and the Government remains committed to making progress on issues that are important to First Nations" and are represented in the new Cabinet leading the country with Stephen Harper, the recently re-elected head, the Prime Minister.

The government insists "there are no legal implications to the name change," and yet there are treaties and the Constitution to consider.  Interesting.

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