Inuit Canadians have bigger issues than Eskimos' team name: Norma Dunning
'There’s just so much more that he could have caught the national attention with'
Following Sunday's Grey Cup win by the Edmonton Eskimos, and the attendant debate over the team's name, an Inuit woman in Edmonton hopes to refocus attention on the real issues facing Inuit Canadians.
Last week, Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the national Inuit organization, called team's name derogatory and symbolic of colonial policies. He said the Eskimos need to change the name.
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"On a personal level, I was very disappointed that he brought the renaming of the Edmonton football team to a national forum when he could have spoke about how attrition rates in Nunavut remain at 75 per cent," Dunning said. "That 22 people can live in a two-bedroom house and sleep in shifts. That there are people living in tents in Iqaluit.
"There's just so much more that he could have caught the national attention with. And the disparity between north and south in Canada is huge."
Dunning is one of the founding members of a new Inuit community group called the Edmontonmiut, which means "Inuit people from Edmonton."
"Our purpose is to bring together as many local Inuit as we can, and to provide support for the transient Inuit who are coming in and out of Edmonton for medical or educational purposes," she said.
"Above all, I think we would like to be able to provide the comfort for one another. It's very important to be amongst your own."
Dunning says the group's dream is to one day set up programming in the Inuktitut language, and to run sewing, art and sculpture lessons.
"We have wonderful dreams," she said.
The Edmontonmiut group hopes to contribute to larger national policies and strategy, particularly the urban Inuit national strategy, which will address and bring voice to Inuit people living in Canadian cities.
'It's very important to be amongst your own'
When Dunning first moved to Edmonton 25 years ago, she thought she was the only Inuit in the city.
"I just assumed I was the only one."
She later joined several Inuit community groups, but each eventually disbanded due to lack of funding. That's been a common problem for such groups, she said.
For now, the new group meets mainly in people's homes. There's a core group of about eight members who are regulars, she said, although anyone is welcome to join.
The main purposes of the meetings is to support each other and their shared heritage. Because the group includes several fluent Inuktitut speakers, language lessons are also a component.
"It's very important to me, and hearing them speak is so lovely," Dunning said of the classes.
With hopes to swell their numbers, the group has set up a Facebook page. Dunning said they will also use social media to try to find new members.