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Outrage Spurred Over Alaska Airlines’ Culturally Insensitive Use of ‘Our Eskimo’

Last week, Alaska Airlines unveiled a major brand change including an ad inviting flyers to “Meet our Eskimo.” Backlash accusing the airline of insensitivity, including an online petition, immediately followed, leading the airline to apologize.

“When Alaska Airlines unveiled our refreshed brand earlier this week, a reference we used, ‘Meet our Eskimo,’ offended many in the Alaska Native community, and likely others,” said Alaska Air Group CEO Brad Tilden in a statement published by Alaska Dispatch News on Jan. 28. “We apologize and take full responsibility for this insensitive reference.”

Despite the apology, the company’s original Jan. 25 press release retains its “our Eskimo” wording.

“Our company has a unique personality and a vibrant spirit that our Eskimo has personified for almost half a century,” said Tilden in the original press release.

Alaska resident Annie Wenstrup started an online petition that garnered 275 signatures to bring attention to what she said is Alaska’s insensitivity.

“Their new campaign is culturally insensitive,“ Annie Wenstrup said in a petition she started online at Care2Petitions. “Alaska Airlines is seeking to profit by exploiting the cultural heritage of Alaska Natives. In return they’re offering a dehumanizing and inaccurate depiction of indigenous culture.”

Wenstrup reported that on Jan. 30, she spoke with Marilyn Romano, Regional Vice President for Alaska Airlines, who addressed her concerns about the rebranding campaign. Romano also accepted an offer from the First Alaskans Institute to attend the upcoming Racial Equity Summit.

According to the airline’s blog, Alaska first adopted the “Eskimo” in 1972, “when Alaska adopted a four-logo paint scheme – a totem pole, to represent the native culture of Southeast Alaska; a gold miner, to represent the booming gold rush days in Alaska; Russian spires, to represent early Russian heritage in the state of Alaska; and a native Alaskan adorned in a traditional qulittaq (parka with ruff) to represent the Arctic region and its people.”

Alaska noted that indigenous Alaskans traditionally of Inupiat or Yupik descent “commonly refer to themselves as Eskimo.”

[Photo: Twitter]

Comments are Closed.
RUAMKZ February 3, 2016

"He's a warm, welcoming presence" ---- THAT's racist??? !!

brocklee9000 February 2, 2016

Furthermore, if you click through to the twitter account of @SporkenWord, you'll see she is one of these armchair activists I spoke of. Her feed is just a bunch of retweeted tweets (I think that's how twitter works? I don't use it...) that deal with the current issues (Donald trump, a girl that died her first night in prison, something about white people). This is so typical of the whiney entitled "aware" kids that go to school all around me. It's ridiculous, because each week they're up in arms about something new, something they've suddenly become the expert on because they read a facebook post.

cmd320 February 2, 2016

I've never understood how people can be offended by basic words. You would think those living in a region which is below freezing most of the year would have grown a thicker skin...

celsius1939 February 2, 2016

@brocklee9000 is absolutely correct. PC is alive and well in Alaska. It is time to laugh it off.

Xnuiem February 2, 2016

No, they didnt buy an eskimo. Read it like this: Meet our Eskimo (logo). It is like Kellogs saying, our Tiger. My wife. I didnt buy her, but she is still my wife.