Almost exactly two years to the day after Eskimeaux’s Gabrielle Smith took to Facebook to defend her band’s name, she has retraced her steps and decided to finally proceed under a new name after facing online criticism from Tanya Tagaq, award-winning Inuk throat singer. From here on out, the band formerly known as Eskimeaux will proceed under the new name Ó.
The change comes after Tagaq took to Twitter over the weekend to voice her concern for the problematic name.
.@eskimeaux666 plays Toronto on April 17th. Canadians should show them how much they appreciate hipster bands using slurs to sell music.
.@eskimeaux666 you are not an Eskimo. I see you are playing Toronto. Maybe I should bring some Eskimos?
I’m tired of being reduced, diminished, dismissed. Our matriarchs are better than this.
In response to the controversy, both Smith and Tagaq released statements to Pitchfork, with Tagaq noting that Smith “has taught me that people can be open and respectful when mistakes are made. I am very pleased with this outcome of the band name change and our impending friendship. Pleasant surprises.” Check out both statements in full below.
We’ve been talking about changing the band name for a little over a year now. The band name is the gateway to the project and I never set out to make it controversial, hurt people’s feelings, or bring up a kind of hardship I haven’t personally had to endure.
As an adopted person I’ve struggled with finding an identity. I spent so many hours as a kid searching for information about my heritage and this was, unfortunately, the only term I came across for a long time. The only information I have about my birth parents is that my birth father is Tlingit and everywhere I looked for more information the word “eskimo” was commonplace. After a while it became too painful to look anymore, as everything I read had different information, and I hung onto what I was able to find and understand.
Talking to Tanya about this was what ultimately helped me make up my mind to change the band name. She and I have had really different struggles, but they don’t serve to diminish one another. She has a really important perspective that all Americans, who have a tendency to brush aside and not educate themselves or each other about the histories of indigenous peoples, would do well to listen to and learn from.
I had added the “eaux” to the end of my band name to illustrate the way I record; it’s a jumble of syllables combined to make a simple sound, “o.” Moving forward, this project will be called Ó.
Our band has a project providing a soundtrack to the 1922 saga Nanook of the North. This project has significance became we have spent many years attempting to dissolve stereotypes surrounding Inuit culture, therefore humanizing a culture in the midst of socio-economic crisis due to post colonial fallout. The word Eskimo is a slur for many Inuit. The name being applied to a band by a non-Inuk person incensed me. I applied the same tactic that I have used a multitude of times with offending appropriators or groups (RIDM Festival, Ungava gin, Black Pussy), which was one of aggressive public scrutiny. This tactic is taken because often when I privately contact these groups they dismiss me completely until there is a public outcry. Gabrielle has taught me that people can be open and respectful when mistakes are made. I am very pleased with this outcome of the band name change and our impending friendship. Pleasant surprises.
Ó will play their “last show for a long time” on April 30th at Brooklyn’s Baby’s All Right as part of a benefit for DIY venue Shea Stadium, which is currently raising funds to reopen after being shut down by the NYPD.