To explore how Arctic Native people identify themselves, how non-natives identify Arctic Natives, and the difference between the two. We interview Jacqui Igluġuq Lambert, Mellisa Maktuayaq Heflin, and Inuujaq Leslie Fredlund.
"It’s a really weird experience to be an Inupiaq woman, sitting at the computer, researching why or why not I should call myself Inuit or Eskimo. I don’t even think our ancestors or even just a few generations older than us would understand that this kind of identity crisis can exist. This kind of soul searching, basically, can exist through the internet but also that we find that stuff from outsiders. How can we shift from that?" - Jacqui Lambert
Jacqui Lambert is Inupiaq from Kotzebue with lineage in Kiana and Noorvik as well. She self-publishes a quarterly print and online magazine called The Qargizine which showcases rural and Alaska Native expressions through art, photography and stories. She has been living in Anchorage for a little over two years. Jacqui's interest in the Eskimo vs. Inuit debate sprouted from her travels across the circumpolar Arctic, where she's visited communities just like ours in Russia, Canada and Greenland. Her magazine and artwork can be accessed here.
"It depends on the generation. I’m okay with using either Eskimo, Iñupiaq, Iñuit, or Native person, but with my children I don’t teach them that they’re “Eskimo” because that is the word that was placed on our people. So, the word that I place on my children is that they are Iñupiaq. They are not Eskimo. I also instruct them though that if an elder says that you’re Eskimo—then just agree with them. Don’t correct them." - Mellisa Heflin
Maktuayaq “Mellisa Johnson Heflin”, is originally from the Bering Strait community of Nome, Alaska, with family extending from the communities of White Mountain, Little Diomede, Wales, and Shishmaref. Her paternal grandparents are the late Allan Johnson Sr. and Teresa (Norbert) Waters, and maternal grandparents are Edna (Alexander) Senungetuk and the late Raymond Seetomona and adoptive maternal grandparents are the late Louis Jack and Daisy (Noyakuk) Jack. Maktuayaq is a tribal member of the Nome Eskimo Community. She is the Executive Director of the Bering Sea Elders Group, speaking and working together as one voice to protect and respect our traditional ways of life, the ocean web that supports the resources we rely on, and our children’s future. Since 1992, she resides in Anchorage with her children Keyahna, Rosie, and Donald. Maktuayaq’s favorite Inupiaq food is fermented seal flipper, which was last tasted during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s before leaving Nome.
"I love Inuit culture. I don’t think we’ll ever be in a place where we’re all in agreement, but I do think that as time goes on and we evolve that that word is just going to phase itself out. We identify ourselves as Inuit, Inupiaq, Yup’ik, Inuvialuit, Inuinnait, Kalaallit we’re so diverse and I love to just embrace that. As far as the word Eskimo, I think it’ll phase itself out over time." - Lesli Inuujaq Fredlund
Inuujaq Leslie Fredlund spent her childhood living in different communities in the Canadian Arctic and now lives in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut. Rankin has been her home for the last 24 years and is where she has been raising her 4 daughters with her husband Ben. Inuujaq enjoys experiencing different work careers but her true passion is with the arts. She enjoys writing, sewing, bead work, ceramics, jewelry making, photography, and she loves to continuously learn more cultural and arts skills.