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Inuit Are Calling Out This Canadian Gin Maker For Appropriating Their Culture

The marketing includes women wearing sexy "Inuit" outfits.

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Inuit are calling Ungava, a Canadian gin company, for appropriating their culture to sell booze.

Facebook: ungava.canadian.gin

Ungava gin contains botanicals from the Ungava Peninsula in Nunavik, such as cloudberries and juniper. The bottle features Inuktitut symbols and its marketing material is full of Inuit imagery.

While it's been around since 2010, Inuit in Canada — including musician Tanya Tagaq — have recently called out the brand on Twitter for appropriating and stereoptyping their culture.

.@Ungava_Gin non Inuit owned Toronto based company mocking us and profiting off of us.

Ungava was founded in southern Quebec and recently sold to Corby Spirit and Wine Ltd., based in Toronto.

Some of the marketing material has Inuit cartoon figures acting like little helper elves.

In this one @Ungava_Gin thinks we're like Santa's elves, it's fun being mythical creatures and not real human beings

There's also a video posted on Ungava's YouTube profile, called "A Unique Journey of the Senses," which has audio of Inuit throat singing.

View this video on YouTube

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Other images show white promo models dressed in cleavage-baring yellow dresses with fur trim. Iqaluit-based artist Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory told BuzzFeed Canada the outfits are both racist and sexist and her jaw literally dropped when she saw them.

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"For a very long time, Inuit have been stereotyped and our women have been sexualized in order to sell anything, from car products to toothpaste to refrigerators. You can go on the internet and type in 'Eskimo ads' and you’ll find it all," said Bathory.

"I say 'Eskimo' because this is the stereotypical image that’s used over and over again."

As Inuk artist Stephen Puskas pointed out in a Facebook post, there's little indication those who actually live in Nunavik are benefiting from the gin.

Facebook: stephen.a.puskas

"Even if it does provide some Inuit with work, the majority [of] the profits don't stay in the north," he wrote.

Ungava's president, Charles Crawford, told CBC News the company employs Inuit to gather ingredients for the gin, and that they're paid fair wages.

He did not specificy how many Inuit the company employs but in a 2013 Maclean's article, Crawford said the company hires “these two guys from Kuujjuaq” to pick the botanicals. He was unsure of their names.

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On Wednesday, the company tweeted that they've seen the criticism and will "have more information shortly."

Thank you for your comments and for voicing your concerns. We are addressing your feedback & will have more information shortly.

BuzzFeed Canada has reached out to Ungava for comment.

Bathory is hoping the company not only removes the offending images, but commits to actually working with communities in Nunavik.

MY JAW JUST DROPPED. #culturalappropration #stereotypes #Inuit #sexualization https://t.co/LJg0sq4DnD

"They’re appropriating aspects of our relationship with the Arctic lands and they’re stereotyping our race and our culture," she said.

"I think it's very important the Inuit are vocal about deconstructing stereotypes because we need to be. We are the ones who need to tell our own stories about our own contemporary lives."

UPDATE: Ungava's president has released a statement apologizing for marketing materials dating to 2013. Here is the full statement.

"Recently, members of the Inuit community have expressed serious concerns about an advertising and promotional campaign that we ran in Europe in 2013. We recognize that the campaign crossed an important line and has offended many people. For that, we are deeply sorry and we will do better.

We will be engaging key cultural influencers to gather explicit feedback on our use of Inuit symbology, and we are committed to being more culturally aware and sensitive in our advertising efforts going forward.

Ungava is proud of our ties to the Canadian Arctic, and our brand identity is intended to celebrate the individuality of the region. The Ungava Peninsula at the northern tip of Quebec is the native home of six rare botanicals we use to produce Ungava gin, and there is no better place on earth to grow them. The decision to call our gin Ungava was always intended to pay tribute to the land from which the gin is produced, and to celebrate the unmistakable beauty of the Ungava region.

Although the campaign ended in 2013, we will review all of our owned media channels, including Facebook, Twitter and our website, to ensure any references to the campaign have been removed.

We are truly sorry that we’ve offended the Inuit community, as this was never our intent, nor does it align with our corporate values and beliefs.

Sincerely,

Charles Crawford

Founder and President"

The company did not address BuzzFeed Canada's questions regarding how many Inuit are employed by the brand.

Lauren Strapagiel is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto, Canada.

Contact Lauren Strapagiel at lauren.strapagiel@buzzfeed.com.

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