National Museum of Denmark replaces the word ‘Eskimo’ by ‘Inuit’ and ‘Inuk’

National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen.
National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen. Image: CAPTAIN RAJU Wikimedia CC BY SA 4.0

The National Museum of Denmark is stripping the word “Eskimo” — a term many people consider outdated, even derogatory — from its exhibits, website and social media posts over the coming months.

The term is being replaced by “Inuit” and “Inuk” or more specific regional names, the museum announced in a Facebook post in July. It’s a “necessary change,” said Martin Appelt, a senior researcher, and curator with the National Museum of Denmark, in Copenhagen. 

The old word, which dates back to 1605, had been collectively used to describe Inuit from Greenland, Canada, Siberia, and Alaska, according to the museum’s Facebook post announcing the change. While it is still used by people in Alaska, in Greenland, and most of the Eastern Arctic it’s not widely used today, he said.

“There’s, of course, no consensus or one opinion about this across a whole nation,” he said. Still, he said, an update is long overdue. The old term “covers up the diversity of the people living across the North,” said Appelt. “It’s way over the proper time of making these [changes].”

Pam Gross, the executive director of the Pitquhirnikkut Ilihautiniq / Kitikmeot Heritage Society, welcomes the decision. “People around the world are starting to realize that Indigenous peoples have their own names.” The society is a “long-standing partner” of the museum, she added. “We’re working to, in a sense, decolonize ourselves” by using the term Inuinnait and working with museums to do the same, Gross said.

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