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KNBA News - Use of the term "Eskimo" gets mixed responses; Alaska Native Arts Foundation closing

Feb. 4, 2015

Alaska Airlines apologizes and pulls “Our Eskimo” term from ad campaign

By Daysha Eaton, KBBI – Homer

Tiffany Zulkosky wrote a letter to Alaska Airlines last month asking them to reconsider their recent re-branding campaign which included a headline reading, ‘Meet Our Eskimo,’ with a streamlined version of the company’s iconic image of the smiling face of an Alaska Native man.
In her letter, Zulkosky said the rebranding comes across as a slur to many Alaskan customers, and the possessive phrasing of the headline bothered her.

“Not one entity owns a culture,” said Zulkosky. “The sense of ownership that was in that initial wording was.. you know it takes a very rich, celebrated people and kind of coopts it for a corporate image and there’s something that feels wrong about that.”

Zulkosky says she is pleased that Alaska Airlines has apologized and removed the headline from their rebranding campaign. She hopes the incident will spark conversation among Alaska Native people about the power of language, how they refer to themselves, and what they prefer others call them.

Bethel Area Reactions to Use of the Word "Eskimo"

By Charles Enoch, KYUK – Bethel

“I would rather be called ‘Inupiaq’ because that’s what I am and my children are Yup’ik,” said Blossom Twitchell from Kotzebue.

“I want them to be able to connect to their culture and people won’t group us in as little people that live in igloo’s and give little Eskimo kisses all the time, we are so much more than that,” said Twitchell. “We have culture and traditions that have been passed down for generations and I don’t believe the word Eskimo does our heritage justice.”

[Two elders interviewed for this story had different reactions. One said she grew up hearing and using the word “Eskimo.” The other said to honor their ancestors, Yup’ik people should stick with the word Yup’ik, which means “real people.”

After the Alaska Airlines redesign incident, Twitchell decided to take it a step further by starting a petition asking the Bureau of Indian Affairs to stop identifying people’s ethnicity as “Eskimo” in Federal paperwork. As of Thursday afternoon, the petition had over 50 supporters.

Native arts, handicrafts to go on sale Friday night

By Joaqlin Estus, KNBA - Anchorage

A non-profit promoter of Alaska Native art and artists is closing its doors. The Alaska Native Arts Foundation is cutting prices on Native handicrafts and works of art at its gift shop. Items there range from jewelry and fur hats to baskets and handmade dolls. Foundation director Cika Sparck says it’s all got to go:

:07 The whole gallery, from the arts in the gift shop to the fine art on the walls and in the cases.

Sparck says since its start 14 years ago, the Alaska Native Arts Foundation has provided artists with business and marketing training, and master artist workshops. She says the foundation promoted the work of Alaska Native artists online, and in galleries and museums in Paris, Miami, New York, Washington, DC, and Anchorage.

“We’ve done exhibitions,” said Sparck. “We’ve done sales consistently, throughout all of that time. We’ve been a means of economic opportunity for artists throughout all of Alaska, the farthest reaches.”

Sparck says other funding sources dwindled, then state funding was cut, leaving the foundation’s most valuable asset – a database of more than a thousand artists – available to the right organization:

“Eventually we got to the point where we had to decide we have to close the shop downtown,” said Sparck. “But what we are looking forward to is collaborating with another Native oriented non-profit in order for the database to be passed on and the legacy to continue.”

The Alaska Native Arts Foundation’s sale is from 4 to 8 o’clock tonight [Friday], at 500 West 5th Avenue in downtown Anchorage. After tonight, the gift shop will be open only by appointment