Eskimos to stay, maker says

Last updated 16:23 21/04/2009
MARK DWYER/ Taranaki Daily News
CULTURAL CRINGE: Canadian tourist Seeka Lee Veevee Parsons, 21, is upset New Zealanders eat confectionary called Eskimos.

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Pascalls have no plans to rename or stop selling Eskimo lollies, despite the offence they have caused some Inuit people.

"We have no intention to rename, reshape or remove the product, and trust that consumers will continue to enjoy Pascall Eskimos," Cadbury spokesman Daniel Ellis said.

Controversy over the iconic sweets erupted after a Canadian tourist visiting New Zealand raised concerns. Seeka Lee Veevee Parsons, 21, an Inuit of the Nunavut Territory in Canada, said they were an insult and planned to send packets of the confectionary to the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and her grandfather, a tribal elder.

A Christchurch academic has also called the sweets offensive saying Inuit friends in Canada likened the popular sweet to "eating white people".

In a statement today Pascall/Cadbury said Eskimos were "an iconic New Zealand lolly".

The company produced almost 19 million individual Eskimos last year, which made it "one of our most sought after".

The company said it was disappointed to learn the sweet had caused concern, but this was only the second time in the product's 54 year history that it had received such a complaint.

"This shows that the overwhelming majority of consumers do not find Eskimos to be offensive."

But Canterbury University's Dr Nicole Gombay, who studies Inuit politics and culture, says she was shocked to see the Cadbury/Pascall lolly for sale when she arrived in New Zealand three years ago.

"I find it odd that the sweets are for sale… obviously it doesn't mean as much to people here."

After sending packets of the sweets to two Inuit friends, they responded, saying: "imagine us eating white people."

Dr Gombay said while the sweet’s image – a small snowsuited figure - was "a normal representation" of Inuit culture, it was no longer relevant.

"It would be like putting an African in mud hut with a grass skirt and a bone in his head."

"They have microwaves, cable TVs, dishwashers… and go for holidays in New Zealand."

She believed it was also offensive because food shortages had been an issue for Inuit people in the past. "The notion of cannibalism is a real thing."

She did not believe changing the sweet's name would have changed the situation. "It doesn’t change what it is."

 

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