Palin`s Husband: 1/8th “Inuit” or “Eskimo”?


McCain`s choice for Veep of the young lady governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, seems, initially, like a good way out of the box of Romney (who would make a decent President but a poor VP candidate) vs. Lieberman. As I always say, there are 300,000,000 million people in this country, more than a few of whom would do better than the usual suspects. Of course, I`m just trying to wave my hands around here without looking too idiotic, because I have only the dimmest idea who Sara Palin is.

Having now read her Wikipedia article, she certainly sounds energetic. Although, with five kids, she may have a little too much on her plate, even for somebody who appears to be a force of nature. She`s definitely the anti-Cheney, the complete opposite of the Washington insider. Symbolically, she seems like an excellent choice–a sterling representative of a young, healthy, energetic, honest grassroots conservative America, the living embodiment of the fact that Affordable Family Formation is the bulwark of the GOP.

The McCain strategy here appears to be to play to Us vs. Them feelings, with Republicans portrayed as the core of America–the married couples, people with a life–while portraying the Democrats as the marginals–singles, elites, gays, underclass, etc — with the Democrats as the Party of Dying Alone.

Whether Palin will actually turn out to be a good campaigner, much less a good President, is totally beyond me. But it sounds like her record in turning out the corrupt, nepotistic old guard in Alaska will allow her to legitimately go after Obama`s role as a facilitator of the Rezko-Blagojevich corruption in Illinois.

One thing I am competent to comment on is that I hear her husband, who works for the oil industry in the winter and is a fisherman in the summer (Alaska fishermen are staples on all those “America`s Toughest Jobs” reality shows, so that will make killer visuals), is 1/8th Yu`pik , which offers you the chance to one-up the Stuff White People Like crowd in terms of minority sensitivity. They will want to correct your gaffe of calling him part-Eskimo and explain that nobody is allowed to say “Eskimo” anymore. Everybody who is anybody must say “Inuit.”

Sorry, but that`s just the majority pushing the minority around.

As I wrote in 2002, you can tell those Canadian-symps:

The official handbook of the 3-year-old Canadian Territory of Nunavut says, “A word of advice, please don`t call Inuit here “Eskimos.” They`ve always called themselves Inuit, or `the people` in Inuktitut, their native tongue.”

The confusion over “Eskimo” vs. “Inuit” illustrates the paradoxes that accompany the many attempts these days to change the names of ethnic groups.

According to the American Heritage Dictionary, “Many Americans today either avoid this term (Eskimo) or feel uneasy using it.” For example, a Web site of the University of Wisconsin School of Education advises teachers, “There are no `Eskimo` people.”

That would come as a surprise, however, to thousands of Yup`ik-speaking Eskimos in Western Alaska who much prefer to be called “Eskimo” instead of “Inuit.”

Why? They aren`t Inuit.

Steven A. Jacobson, a professor at the Alaska Native Language Center (of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks), told United Press International, “Yup`ik speakers say, `We`re Yup`ik Eskimos; our relatives in northern Alaska, Canada and Greenland are Inuit Eskimos; they aren`t Yup`ik, and we aren`t Inuit, but we`re all Eskimos.` Yup`ik speakers prefer to be called `Yup`iks` … and — in contrast to Inuit in Canada — don`t mind the word `Eskimo,` but they do not like to be called `Inuit.`”

“Eskimo” remains the only word that describes all the physically and culturally quite homogenous groups that extend from the Siberian side of the Bering Strait to Greenland. The American Heritage Dictionary sums up, “While use of these terms (`Inuit` and `Yup`ik`) is often preferable when speaking of the appropriate linguistic group, none of them can be used of the Eskimoan peoples as a whole; the only inclusive term remains Eskimo.”