Alaska Natives welcome removal of 'Eskimo' from federal laws

President Barack Obama joins a Yup'ik dance at the Dillingham Middle School in Dillingham, Alaska, on September 2, 2015. Yup'ik and similar terms are preferred by Alaska Natives over "Eskimo." Photo by Pete Souza / White House

Alaska Native scholars are welcoming the removal of the word "Eskimo" from two federal laws.

Ronald H. Brower Sr., an instructor at the Alaska Native Language Center, said the term was brought in by outsiders. "When we were labeled Eskimos, that labeled us as less than human to white Americans," he told Alaska Dispatch News.

Maria Shaa Tlaa Williams, the director of the Alaska Native Studies at the University of Alaska Anchorage, also said the word was a misnomer. "Many of the European arrivals used pejorative terms that were often not the self-designative terms that local Indigenous people used, and were not accurate," she was quoted as saying.

The Alaska Federation of Natives, however, declined to comment. The group's logo not only uses "Eskimo" but also "Aleut", both of which are being stricken from two federal laws that date to the 1970s.

The Department of Energy Organization Act will now use the general description "Alaska Native" and the Local Public Works Capital Development and Investment Act will use "Alaska Natives" under H.R.4238. President Barack Obama signed the bill into law on Friday.

H.R.4238 also removes outdated and offensive terms for African Americans and Asian Americans from those same two laws.

Get the Story:
Obama signs measure to get rid of the word 'Eskimo' in federal laws (Alaska Dispatch News 5/23)
Obama signs bill striking offensive terms from US laws (AP 5/23)

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Congress passes bill to remove 'Eskimo' and 'Aleut' from two laws (5/13)

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