Many times—more than I’d actually like to count—people have asked me if I was ever going to review the legendary Eskimo Joe’s in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Usually, I’ll try to change the subject because I didn’t feel like getting raked over the coals that day, but the truth is I’ve always had a problem with the name and never felt right about going there.
Sure, they’re an Oklahoma staple, mostly for their world-famous shirts and other merchandise featuring a Native Alaskan and his husky that’s had a home on every local’s chest for over forty years now, but the truth is the corporate mascot of a stereotyped “Eskimo” with overly-caricatured features, not to mention the name, is damaging to all Indigenous peoples.
And now, Natives in Oklahoma are finally speaking out about it, using everything in their Creator-driven power to change the name and image, from petitions to the press; the good news is that it seems like Stan Clark, the owner of Joe’s, might be listening, asking for people to voice their opinions directly.
There are those—there are always those—that believe this is just more racial nitpicking from “uppity Indians” always looking to cancel more beloved traditions in Oklahoma. But, when those traditions include hate, mockery and ridicule, maybe it is time to change the name. I mean, is it really that hard for the population to accept Indigenous people as, you know, people?
Let’s get rid of Mexico Joe’s and their offensive imagery too, while we’re at it.
While there might be little to no Inuit, Yupik, or Aleut people living in Oklahoma, for Indigenous people to see a surviving tribe that shares their historic blood dehumanized for a plate of chili cheese fries and a beer, it can have long-term, damaging effects, the same way sports mascots have been proven to.
As a matter of fact, in countries like Canada and Greenland, the term “Eskimo” is considered a racial slur on par with Redskin and has been replaced with “Alaskan Native” or the proper names of tribes represented, but I guess they’ve always been a bit more progressive than Oklahoma when it comes to the First Nations, which is a bit sad.
That being said, I promise that the moment that Joe’s changes their name to something a lot less controversially prejudiced, then I’ll head over to Stillwater and review it, giving a more food-based review instead of the 400 or so words where I would basically do what I did here.
At least then they’d have a chance.