The Alaska Federation of Natives recently concluded its 51st annual convention in Anchorage, Alaska. "We're already missing everyone!" the organization wrote on Twitter after the October 19-21, 2017, event. Photo: AFN
National | Politics

House panel advances bill to replace 'Eskimo' and 'Aleut' terms in federal regulations

The House Committee on Natural Resources approved a bill last week to replace the words "Eskimo" and "Aleut" in regulations at the Department of the Interior.

The two terms are considered outdated by many Alaska Natives. Each will be replaced by the phrase "Alaska Native" in Section 906.2 of Title 36 in the Code of Federal Regulations if H.R.995, the “21st Century Respect Act, becomes law.

"Today the United States is 241 years old," a markup memo on H.R.995 reads. "In that time, the country has seen an immense amount of change and growth. Over the course of history, laws and policies have been updated to reflect growth, however some decades old statutes and regulations contain antiquated terms."

The bill otherwise does not change the way Alaska Natives are treated in federal law under an amendment adopted by the committee at markup session on November 7 and November 8. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) introduced the provision, which was adopted by unanimous consent. The bill itself also was adopted by unanimous consent, a sign of its non-controversial nature.

Congress has previously taken steps to modernize other federal laws that used the terms "Eskimo" and "Aleut." Alaska Native scholars have said the words were brought into use by non-Natives.

H.R.995, which was introduced by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-New York) in February, can now be considered by the House. There isn't a companion version in the Senate at this point.

House Committee on Natural Resources Notices:
Markup on Bipartisan Offshore-Onshore Energy Bill, 8 Additional Measures (November 7, 2017)
Markup on Bipartisan Offshore-Onshore Energy Bill, 8 Additional Measures (November 8, 2017)