Inuvialuit athletes show Edmonton Eskimos how it’s done

Three football players invited for traditional dinner and games Oct. 15 at Ingamo Hall

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They may be in the best shape of their lives, but three members of the Edmonton Eskimos got a glimpse of real Inuvialuk muscle when they stopped by Ingamo Hall Oct. 16 for a demonstration of traditional Inuvialuit Games.

A feast of traditional dishes, including Caribou Stew and Muktuk, was served prior to the demonstration, which included jump ropes from push-up and L-sit positions, head-pulls and numerous kicking demonstrations.

“That was probably some of the most athletic stuff I have ever seen. That was incredible,” said defensive back Godfrey Onyeka, who attempted a number of the games following the demonstration. “People think we’re in shape, but those guys did a whole bunch of stuff I couldn’t do, so I’m definitely going to work on that. That was cool. They’re working with different muscle groups I never developed.”

As part of the team’s community outreach, Onyeka, long snapper Ryan King and retired Eskimo Andrew Jones spent the week visiting students at East Three Elementary and Secondary School, as well as taking a trip to Tuktoyaktuk’s Mangilaluk school.

There, the Eskimos spread their message against bullying and told the students to believe in themselves and set goals.

“We try to get into different places where not everyone is able to get out to a game,” said Jones. “We do a lot of messaging about bullying prevention, about staying healthy, active and eating properly. It’s really a really cool learning experience for us.”

Concerns have been raised in recent years by Inuit groups throughout Canada saying the term “Eskimo” is racist and the team should change its name. In response to the concerns, now former CEO Len Rhodes led the team’s executive to Inuvik in 2018 to speak with people about what they thought.

Part-organizer Alyssa Carpenter said she was approached by the team as part of the follow up to establish a closer cultural understanding between the Edmonton Eskimos and the Northern cultures they use for their logo.

She noted the trip was suggested by Elders after the football club reached out to find ways to show better respect for the Inuvialuit.

“One thing our leaders said in this region is if you want to give back to the community, then give back to our young people and also get to know our culture, our ways of life and our community members,” she said. “We did Northern games and traditional food to invite them into the community in a really respectful way. It’s a teaching moment for them to take back to their team.

“It’s culture shock but it’s done in a lovely way.”

Once they got up here, the only question for the three athletes was why they didn’t do this sooner.

“We’ve had a great time, we’ve been accepted everywhere from the very beginning and the community’s been phenomenal to us,” said King. “This was something I really wanted to do. I wanted to instill some hope, that you can dream big. Don’t be scared to push harder than you think.”

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