Our annual event began in 1961 as The Eskimo Olympics. Even at those first games there were representatives from other indigenous groups in Alaska. In the 1970s, when the organization was formalized as a corporation our stated purpose was to preserve and promote the indigenous cultures of Alaska, the Americas and the indigenous peoples of the circumpolar north. In recognition of this the name was changed to The World Eskimo-Indian Olympics, Inc.
Over the years the use of the terms 'Eskimo' and 'Indian' have occasionally been questioned. This topic has become more prevalent recently with President Obama's removal of the terms from some official government usage.
As an organization we have been approached about changing our name. We have found that opinions vary widely in the Native population and even among the governing board of WEIO.
Some of the things we are taking into consideration on the matter are the attitudes, positive or negative, that Native peoples have toward the terms and the history of the words themselves. For example, the origins and usage of the word 'Eskimo' have long been debated. Here is what the Alaska Native Language Center has said on the matter:
"Although the name 'Eskimo' is commonly used in Alaska to refer to all Inuit and Yupik people of the world, this name is considered derogatory in many other places because it was given by non-Inuit people and was said to mean 'eater of raw meat'.
Linguists now believe that 'Eskimo' is derived from an Ojibwa word meaning 'to net snowshoes'. However, the people of Canada and Greenland prefer other names. 'Inuit', meaning 'people' is used in most of Canada, and the language is called 'Inuktitut' in eastern Canada although other local designations are used also. The Inuit people of Greenland refer to themselves as 'Greenlanders' or 'Kalaallit' in their language, which they call 'Greenlandic' or 'Kaalaallisut'.
Most Alaskans continue to accept the name 'Eskimo', particularly because 'Inuit' refers only to the Inupiat of northern Alaska, the Inuit of Canada and the Kalaallit of Greenland, and it is not a word in the Yupik languages of Alaska and Siberia."
While many members of other Alaska Native groups (Dena, Tsimpshian, Tlingit, etc.) proudly embrace the term "Indian", others regard it as not only a misnomer but as a term of derision.
We continue to consider all of this as we go forward. An alternate name approved by a resolution of the Board and registered with the State of Alaska is the World Exhibition of Indigenous Olympics.
We also know that when you have a deep connection to your culture you know in your heart who you are, regardless of labels.