Tag Archives: justin bieber

We’re Putting Stephen Colbert On Notice: Why Naming Rights Matter

10 Oct

You might remember that in late July we thanked Justin Bieber for letting us clear up some confusion about Aboriginal peoples in Canada – and now it’s been brought to our attention that we need to do the same for Stephen Colbert.

Stephen Colbert

On last night’s episode of the Colbert Report, host Stephen Colbert‘s opening segment revolved around the Arctic (beginning around the 4:23 mark – unfortunately, the video I’ve linked only works in Canada but if you’re in the US you can watch it here). In discussing the recent story about Australian businessman Paul McDonald being fined for breaking the law in Nunavut, Colbert says (around the 5:10 mark):

Did you know the Eskimos now have twenty-five different words for “douchebag”?

There’s something about this that needs clearing up and it’s tied up with popular perception of Inuit.

Colbert is using the word “Eskimo” to describe Aboriginal residents of Nunavut. As an American, I know that many of my countrymen still use that word but here in Canada (and specifically in Nunavut) people use the word Inuit. Two weeks ago, I explained some of the issues around using the word Inuit but to recap: Inuit simply means “the people” in Inuktitut, one dialect of Inuit language. This is the word Inuit used to describe themselves, not “Eskimo.”

Linguists argue where the word “Eskimo” came from, but the most popular back story is that it was derived from a word certain First Nations peoples used to refer to Inuit, which meant “raw flesh eater” and so had negative connotations. Whether this is true or it actually meant something else, the point is it’s not the word Inuit use to describe themselves and is considered derogatory (at best) by many.

The distinction is even made later in the episode when Colbert cites Greenland’s Vice-Premier Jens B. Frederiksen as saying (in relation to China around the 6:30 mark):

We are aware that is because we now have something to offer, not because they’ve suddenly realized that Inuit are nice people.

Even though Colbert did a nice job saying umiaq, that’s missing the point a bit – it’s important (even when making jokes) to respect naming rights. And for the record, as far as I’m aware there’s only one word modern Inuit use for “douchebag” – and it’s the same as in English (which is a language many Inuit today speak).

So Stephen Colbert, we have no choice but to make our own “On Notice” Board and put you on it with the Biebs.

– Posted by: Alysa Procida, MIA’s Director of Education, Operations and Outreach

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Get Free Admission to MIA, Thanks to Justin Bieber

28 Jul

By now, you may have read my last blog about what we can learn from Justin Bieber’s comments from a Rolling Stone article about his possible indigenous heritage. In case you haven’t, he is quoted in Rolling Stone as saying:

I’m actually part Indian,” he says — “I think Inuit or something? I’m enough percent that in Canada I can get free gas.”

MIA invites Justin Bieber for a tour

Part of our outreach to the Biebs

Our response was just one of many – many people across Canada and on the internet are upset about this evidently offhand remark that was not even the focus on the article in question. Some articles question why, precisely, the remark was upsetting, but I think we covered that in my earlier blog. The real question is: what do we do about it?

This is important because Justin Bieber’s remarks are emblematic of a pervasive confusion many Canadians (and others) have about Aboriginal peoples within Canada. We reached out to Bieber himself (you can see our Tweet to him above), as well as the editors of Rolling Stone asking for a correction to be published. But that doesn’t really seem like enough.

So we’re offering complimentary admission through the end of August for fans of Justin Bieber and anyone else who would like to learn about Aboriginal cultures. All you have to do is come to our front desk and say “No Free Gas But Free Admission”. And spread the word using “#NoFreeGasButFreeAdmission” on Twitter – the more people who can come, the better.

We may not be able to offer you free gas, but we can offer you free admission – and maybe a glimpse of Justin Bieber himself.

Update: If you tweet an accurate fact about Inuit or First Nations art or history with the hashtag #nofreegasbutfreeadmission, you can pick up a complimentary copy of our book Inuit Art in Canada during your visit.

-Posted by: Alysa Procida, MIA’s Director of Education, Operations and Outreach