Re: Natives

Adrian Tanner (atanner@MORGAN.UCS.MUN.CA)
Fri, 23 Feb 1996 11:23:23 -0330

In my post of yesterday I mentioned that the familiar claim that the term
"Eskimo" originally meant "Eaters of Raw Meat" (or some variation) had been
shown to be incorrect. I now have looked at the refererence for this. It is:
Mailhot, Jos=E9 1978 "L'=E9tymologie de 'Esquimau' revue et corrig=E9e"
=C9tudes/Inuit/Studies 2(2):59-69. The exact wording Mailhot uses to=
"Eskimo" is "speaking the language of a foreign land". Thus, while it may
have aquired insult connotations later, I cannot see that the original
denotative meaning was particularly insulting.=20

Also, some of the material I referred to yesterday on the use of the word
'Eskimo' in the 1600s by some Algonquian groups in the Gult of St Lawrence
as a label for other Indian groups, as well as for other Inuit groups, can
be found in Mailhot, J., J-P Simard et S. Vincent 1980 "On est toujours
l'=C9squimau de quelqu'un" =C9tudes/Inuit/Studies 4(1-2):59-76. This was in=
special issue of the journal, entitled 'The Inuit of southern
Quebec-Labrador", and it's contents represented then-current ethnohistorical
research on the region, much of which upset many long-held myths.=20

I am not aware that anyone has challenged these finding. Despite this, it
seems that the word has not yet gotten out generally. Maybe this is because
many text book writers, and even the influential North American specialists,
do not read French. Whatever the reason, many of these myths still persist,
even among anthropologists.

Adrian Tanner, Dept of Anthropology, Memorial University, St John's,
Newfoundland, Canada. A1C 5S7. email Tel 709 737
8868 fax 737 8686