Showing posts with label Ainu. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ainu. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Irankarapte! Ainu to Aou Concert event @Osaka, Feb. 23, 2014

Irankarapte! Ainu to Aou Concert event   日本語以下 

Sunday, February 23rd 13:30 to 15:30 (Doors open at 13:00)

Irankarapte Ainu to Aou! Irankarapte- Let's meet Ainu!

Song and dance concert based on beautifully illustrated Ainu picture books. Through this concert event children can learn about Ainu in an easy to understand way.

Entrance free!!

For more information contact:
Osaka Shimin koryu Center North

(*Still looking for people to help out with the event, so if you are available get in touch through the minaminanokai facebook page:

2/23日曜日 13:30(受付13時)〜15:30
主催:大阪市立市民交流センターすみよし北 指定管理者 公益財団法人住吉隣保事業推進協会


「イランカラプテ アイヌとであおう」


【最寄駅】 南海高野線「住吉東」下車 5分 阪堺電気軌道「神ノ木」下車 5分


Stories from the spirit world and heart of Ainumosir @ Sakaimachi Garow, Kyoto - February 22, 2014

Ainu Art Project founder, artist and storyteller Yuki Koji will be in Kyoto for the first time in years to share his new hanga (woodblock prints) and stories from the world of the spirits. Nagane Aki will also be performing on the mukkuri and tonkori and tea and snacks will come with entry. **English translation not available.

Stories from the spirit world and heart of Ainumosir (note the play on words in the Japanese title!)

2/22 (Saturday) 15:00 doors open 15:30 event starts
Location: Sakaimachi Garow (
Nearest station: Karasuma Oike
Entrance fee: 2800円(with reservation 2500円)

For more information contact:

Monday, September 30, 2013

NHK: "Ainu Find Their Voice"

Via Jen Teeter and Aotearoa Ainumosir Exchange Programme アオテアロア・アイヌモシリ交流プログラム:
NHK World (日本語は以下)has put together a story about our Ainu revitalization initiatives and Erana Brewerton's visit to Japan. With the main focus of the story being scenes in Nibutani of applying the Te Ataarangi method for Maori language revitalization to the Ainu language, there are also interviews of Maki Sekine and Erana. Through this five minute story, we hope that many people will come to realize just how hard and persistently we are working at the grassroots level for Ainu language revitalization.

You can also catch glimpses of these people and more!

私たちのアイヌ語復興の取組みがエラナさんの来日とともに、NHK 国際のニュースで取り上げられました。マオリ語復興のテ・アタアランギ教授法をアイヌ語に応用している北海道、二風谷でのシーンを中心に、エラナさんや関根真紀さんなどのインタビューを紹介してくれています。5分間のニュースですが、地道な取組みが、たくさんの方の理解につながることを祈っています

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Sketches of Myahk explores indigenous Japanese roots - still alive in northern Japan & Okinawa

スケッチ・オブ・ミャーク 宮古島スペシャル

Koichi Onishi's documentary film, Sketches of Myahk, is a fascinating exploration of Japan's obscured indigenous heritage still extant in northern Japan and  Okinawa:
"I think Aomori connections with ancient Japan are much like those of Miyakojima," said Onishi, adding that he intends to shoot his next film in Aomori Prefecture.

Miyako is pronounced "Myahk" by locals. Two types of songs have been handed down through generations: "Aagu" folk songs that differ in style from traditional verses of the main Okinawa island and "kamiuta" sacred songs...

"Aomori (Prefecture) is home to the Sannai-Maruyama archaeological site and many other ruins from the prehistoric Jomon period (14,000 B.C. to 300 B.C.). Psychics closely related to folk beliefs like 'itako' shamans are still very much alive in our everyday lives," Onishi said. "(Aomori and) Miyakojima share a common bond in the way they retain traces of ancient Japan."
More about this beautiful film at Asahi.

Background: DNA research has confirmed that Ainu and Okinawans are direct descendants of Japan's first people, the Jomon, who entered what is now known as the Japanese archipelago through the area now known as Sakhalin, original home (along with the Kuriles, Hokkaido, and northern Tohoku)  to Ainu. Therefore Ainu and Okinawan cultures give us a sense of the richness of indigenous Japanese (Jomon)  culture.

Geneticists have also confirmed that mainland Japanese have descended from intermarriage of Jomon and later immigrants from Asia who brought rice and metal culture to Japan during the Yayoi period which lasted from around 300 BCE to 300. The later-comers entered the archipelago through Kyushu. New findings show that cultural exchanges went in multiple directions, with Asian mainlanders adopting Jomon culture as well as the other way around.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Exhibition of Ainu woodwork and more at Yokohama Takashimaya

 From April 17th to the 20th, the 5th annual "Wood work, Wooden shapes" exhibition is being held on the 8th floor of Takashimaya in Yokohama

Nibutani-born Ainu artist Maki Sekine, whose carved wooden obon (tray) is seen in the poster above will have her woodwork and atush (elm bark carvings) on display. Maki Sekine just returned from Aotearoa (New Zealand) where she took place in the Aotearoa Ainumosir Exchange Program and some of her pieces on display are inspired by her interactions with Maori people she met there.

- Posted by Jen Teeter

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Support Indigenous Ainu of Japan and Maori of New Zealand in cultural exchange

Exchange Program participants with Matarahi Skipper at his Maori Workshop in Ainumosir Hokkaido
In less than two months time, seven Ainu youth from all over Japan, will become the first of hopefully many groups of Ainu, to participate in an intensive 5-week-long exchange with the Maori of Aotearoa New Zealand through the Aotearoa-Ainumsor Exchange Program (AAEP). Their mission- to learn experientially from the initiatives of Maori people to maintain their cultural traditions while shaping modern society. Proposed by Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell, these future Ainu leaders will engage in fieldwork program in several fields:
  • Maori language education
  • Maori media
  • Maori tourism industry
  • Maori policy
  • Maori policy-making
They will also join in on important Maori events and celebrations including the annual Ratana CelebrationWaitangi Day, and the Maori Cultural Festival. The program participants were selected after a rigorous application process which included essay writing and interviews, and a solid commitment to a sharing what they learn in their communities upon return to Japan.

The Ainu and Maori, while separated by miles of ocean, share many similarities in their history, culture, and efforts to revitalize their rights, culture, and position in (now) mainstream societies. However, despite years of struggle and determination, the Ainu have only just gained recognition as an indigenous people by the Japan government; up until 2008, they were referred to as "former aboriginals." According to AAEP,
Due to anxiety about deeply rooted discrimination which pervades society, or the inability for people to discover meaning in being Ainu, there are still many people who have yet to assert their Ainu identity. According to a Hokkaido Prefecture survey there are about 24,000 Ainu people, however in reality there are several times more Ainu people than that figure leads us to believe. Out of the 5,000 to 10,000 Ainu people living in the Tokyo metropolitan area alone, only around 100 of them are active as Ainu.
The Maori have been successful in regaining their rights as indigenous people since 1970s. They have long maintained a strong presence in politics, run Maori language radio and TV programs/stations, have pioneered a groundbreaking approach for language education called Kōhanga Reo (language nests), and have their own universities. The Maori tourist industry is flourishing and as the years pass, education about Maori history and culture is being incorporated into mainstream education, creating a more cohesive New Zealand society. AAEP hopes to build a generation of Ainu leaders that are proud of their identity as Ainu who will work to create a Japan that is more accepting of diversity.

Maya Sekine (pictured below) is the youngest participant in the group:
Irankarapte. Ku-rehe anakune Sekine Maya ne (My name is Maya Sekine).  What I would like to learn in Aotearoa is the similarities and differences between Ainu people and people in Aotearoa. I would also like to learn about Maori language and cultures. When I come back here, I would like to do my best to utilize what I learned in Aotearoa. Suy unukar an ro (See you later.)
Hirofumi Kibata (pictured above far left) hopes this experience will open him to a new world "not only for himself, not only for Ainu and Maori, but so that everyone can see the world from a new perspective." You can read more messages from the participants at the Aotearoa-Ainumosir Exchange Program (AAEP) blog.

Once the participants reach Aotearoa, several organizations, including the Advancement of Maori Opportunity, will cover transportation, most meals, and accommodation.  Over the past 9 months, AAEP has raised enough money to cover most of the airplane tickets, but funds are still needed for several more tickets for interpreters and the AAEP chair, insurance, daily expenses, reports and information exchange sessions in Japan, and maintenance of the program for future exchanges.

Maya Sekine, from Nibutani, is a heritage learner of the Ainu language.  
In order to raise these funds, AAEP has launched an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign. Already, in two days, they have received 35% of their goal of $10,000. With your help, they can reach their goal or even surpass it. A successful Indiegogo campaign encourages a crowd of people to support it, not only with monetary donations, but by spreading the word through social media such as Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and Google+. The more people talking and donating to the campaign, even in small amounts, the more momentum the campaign gains, which brings even more people to the project.

Become a part of the movement to bring resurgence to the Ainu culture and Ainu society in Japan! In exchange for contributions, you can receive an Ainu jaw harp, an original program T-shirt or unique woodblock print designed by Ainu artist Koji Yuuki, head of the Ainu Art Project.

Watch the video below to find out more, or click here to watch it directly on the campaign site!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Ainu Political Party launch: Reports from Ainu Mosir & Aotearoa

The Ainu Party of Japan (homepage here) was launched last weekend in Ebetsu City, Ainu Mosir (Hokkaido), marking a historical moment for Japan, the Ainu, and indigenous peoples all over the world. This is the first time an ethnic minority group has ever created a political party of its own in Japan.

Maori Party representative and member of the New Zealand Parliament since 2005 Te Ururoa Flavell and his wife Erana Hond-Flavell, a research associate at Te Kōpae Piripono (Center of Innovation) in Te Tāhuhu o Te Mātauranga (Aotearoa/New Zealand Board of Education) joined Ainu Party supporters in their Saturday, January 21st celebrations.

The day of the launch commenced with an Ainu ceremony held outside the snow-covered Ebestu City Community Center. Representative Flavell presented a Taiaha, a traditional Maori weapon to the Ainu Party.

While reports of the new party in English and Japanese are scarce, Maori news sources have been reporting extensively on the groundbreaking launch.

Co-leaders of the Maori Party, Dr Pita Sharples and Tariana Turi, made a statement in support of the party:
The Maori Party congratulates the Ainu community for their determination to take their policy priorities and concerns into the political landscape in Japan.

We are delighted to acknowledge Shiro Kayano, the leader of the Ainu Party, and to extend our best wishes for their launch on the 21st January.

The recognition of the voices of the Ainu community has achieved momentum in Japan through the establishment of a Parliamentary Committee to investigate the rights of the Ainu, headed by former Prime Minister, Yukio Hatoyama.

Our seven years experience in the Maori Party has confirmed how important it is to create the space for the voices of tangata whenua in national and local politics. Our mission has always been to ensure that ‘every issue is a Maori issue’; and that ultimately we know that what works for Maori, is in the best interests also of Aotearoa.

We join with other indigenous political movements across the globe, to welcome the formation of the Ainu Party, and to extend greetings of solidarity to the wider Ainu community in their determination to make a significant contribution to the political destiny of their land.
- Jen Teeter

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

"We are not right-wing, we are not left-wing~ We are Ainu": First ever Ainu political party to be launched

Saturday, October 29th, 2011 marks a revolution in Japanese politics: the first time in Japanese history a minority group has announced it will form its own political party. After witnessing the success of minority and indigenous political parties around the world, members of the Ainu community in Hokkaido decided to create their own party to campaign for their issues.

Led by Shiro Kayano, the President of the Kayano Shigeru's Nibutani Ainu Museum (named after his late father), Hokkaido Ainu Association Board Member Hideo Akibe, Hokkaido Ainu Association Ebetsu City-branch head Yuji Shimizu and their supporters made the announcement at the Symposium on Multicultural Education in Japan hosted by the World Indigenous People's Network-Ainu in Sapporo. The party is not affiliated with the Hokkaido Ainu Association and will start functioning in January.

Flyer for Symposium on Multicultural Education with photos of Shiro Kayano (top left), Yuji Shimizu (center left), Hideo Akibe (center right), and Nomoto Hiroyuki (bottom left)

Shiro Kayano stated at the symposium:
What is needed for the Ainu people is unity. We need to unite the Ainu people and our supporters. Some people say that because we were traditionally hunters and gathers so we can not unite as one. However, we also practiced fishing and small-scale agriculture, so this argument holds no ground. We can unite.
The Ainu people have been no stranger to politics. Kayano's father, Shigeru Kayano, served as a House of Councilor's member from 1994 until 1998. While Shigeru Kayano was the only Ainu person that won a seat in parliament, other Ainu people have campaigned for seats including Kaori Tahara, a former member of the New Party Daichi.

Hideo Akibe added:
Having Shigeru Kayano in the parliament played a huge role in the enactment of the Ainu Culture Law in 1997. I feel it may be destiny, after the passing of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and us holding the 2008 Indigenous Summit in Hokkaido, that this move to form a political party has come about.
Shiro Kayano further elaborated on the necessity for Ainu people to have their own political party where their issues are not overshadowed or ignored:
Ainu issues are put on the back burner while other issues gain more attention in Japan. Many people believe that the 1997 Ainu Cultural Law and 2008 parliament resolution to recognize Ainu as indigenous people solved the issues that Ainu people have faced, but in reality, they have not not. So, we need to rise up! Similar to the Arab Spring, maybe this marks the beginning of an Ainu Spring!
A member of the Planning Committee for the Ainu Party who wished to remain nameless explained that current governmental policies, laws, and panels on Ainu policy do not take adequate steps to realize any of the inherent indigenous rights to which the Ainu are entitled, nor any other priorities that Ainu have, including issues related to poverty and education. He also noted:
We hope that with an Ainu political party, not only can we push for policies that realize Ainu rights, but we can draw attention to the multicultural nature of Japan while pushing for policies that address a variety of Ainu issues.
Hiroyuki Nomoto, Tokyo Metropolitan University associate professor and member of the Planning Committee for the Ainu Party explained that although the policy stances of the party have not been decided, discussions have revolved around the following points:
  • the restoration of Ainu rights
  • the realization of the coexistence of multicultural groups in Japanese society
  • the creation of a sustainable society based on harmony with Nature
The Ainu Party which is aiming to bring at least ten candidates to parliament in 2013, will help bring Ainu issues to the forefront of Japanese policy deliberations. It may also provide a platform for other minority groups, such as Zainichi Koreans in Japan to raise their voices against violations of their rights. Currently, Zaiinichi Korean organizations are campaigning for their schools to become accredited by the government. At present, with "international" English schools as an exception, any school that does not use Japanese as its main language cannot become accredited, forcing its students to jump through countless hurdles to matriculate into universities.

The idea behind the Ainu party is for Ainu people to unite to promote their own issues, while taking steps towards a multicultural Japan where all minorities can live in harmony. As Hideo Akibe explained: "We are not right-wing, we are not left-wing~ We are Ainu."

- Posted by Jen Teeter

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Citizens in Japan take proactive action as Fukushima radiation threats loom; ask for international support in signing petition, e-mailing officials

13 min. video showing highlights of Saturday 6/11 video in Shinjuku, Tokyo (shorter video may be watched here).

This past Saturday June 11th, which marked exactly three months since eastern Japan was struck in rapid succession by a devastating earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis, citizens gathered in cities and towns the world over in impassioned demonstrations to let their government officials know in no uncertain terms that the era of nuclear power is over.

The event, known collectively as 6.11 Anti Nukes Day, included solidarity demonstrations held in Canada, France, Germany, Mexico, Taiwan and the United States. In cities across Japan, the demonstrations were of course particularly poignant given the ongoing uncertainty of the Fukushima nuclear crisis. Several events were held in the nation’s capital of Tokyo alone, where the largest drew some 20,000 people to the central district of Shinjuku in a pulsing, unbarred, and at times raucous expression of emotion.

On one hand, recent weeks have seen several positive developments that are being cautiously celebrated, including the shutdown of the Hamaoka nuclear plant (dubbed the “world’s most dangerous”), the increasing likelihood that plans will be scrapped for the Kaminoseki nuclear facility, and Prime Minister Kan’s announcement of Japan’s serious commitment to alternative energies within the nation’s future energy policy. Unanswered questions continue to percolate, however, regarding the issue of Fukushima’s fallout (both literal and otherwise) underneath the surface of mainstream public discourse, which seems to have forgotten about the crisis altogether as daily life has shifted back to “normal”.

This state of collective denial seems exactly the way that officialdom in Japan wants to keep things, judging by the number of baton-wielding police officers sent out to cover Saturday’s event—which far surpassed what would have been necessary for the ostensible purpose of “traffic control”. When I arrived for the evening portion of the Shinjuku demonstration, I was stunned to be greeted by an ocean of blue cop uniforms literally as far as I could see. This served two purposes: first, making the general public unaware of what was actually happening, since several layers of officers were surrounding the demonstrators, thereby blocking the action from view (and making it inaccessible to would-be participants); and second, giving the impression that whatever was going on was so “dangerous” as to necessitate such intense police coverage.

When I was finally able to join the event—after taking a circuitous route and ducking in between cops to reach it— I found instead a chilled-out atmosphere including a reggae singer performing anti-nuke songs atop a sound truck, people waving creative signs and handing out flyers, and others holding candles in silence. It was a peaceful, artistic and inspiring gathering—and the average passerby did not even know that it was going on.

Illustrated downloadable information guide for first-time protest-goers, also available via the website of Hajime Matsumoto, who runs the Shiroto no ran ("Amateur Revolt") shop and social collective in the Tokyo neighborhood of Koenji where 15,000 people gathered in April for an anti-nuke demonstration that he organized.

Among the many other Japanese cities hosting demonstrations on Saturday was Koriyama in Fukushima prefecture, where Tokyo resident Hideaki Matsuura decided to offer support to those who have been facing the disaster more intimately. “I thought the demo would be quite big since Koriyama has suffered significant radiation damage, but I was surprised to see that there were only around two or three hundred people there—and further shocked to see that almost no one was wearing face masks,” he told me. “During speech time, however, people gave very moving appeals about how their lives have been damaged, and how they and their families continue to fear for their safety.”

He also told me that he spoke after the event with a woman who described the culture of silence and complicity that continues to reign in Fukushima whereby people are culturally obliged to follow their elders—most of whom get their information from the mainstream media rather than the internet, and thereby believe the official assurances that radiation from the plant is “safe.” As a result, she said, anyone who goes against this prevailing logic—by wearing a mask, for example, or expressing a desire to move to a safer area—risks bullying and/or ostracization from the community.

An international collective known as “Todos Somos Japon: Fissures in the Planetary Apparatus” organized following the 3.11 disaster released a statement in support of the June 11th demonstrations in Japan that included the following:
Our thoughts should go especially to the women of Japan who, we are told, are those who are most strongly opposed to the government propaganda about patriotism and sacrifice. We understand they are struggling to resist this suicidal logic, which demands their families consume radioactive products to show the world that all is well in this country and a nuclear disaster is something we can live with. Their struggle is our struggle and their resistance needs our support.
Indeed, with official information non-forthcoming regarding the actual level of dangers, average citizens have had to take matters into their own hands in order to protect their safety and livelihoods. A friend of mine who is an organic farmer and surfer living along the coast of Chiba prefecture—which lies due south of Fukushima—has purchased a Geiger counter, as have many other farmers, in order to regulate the levels of radiation that may be affecting her fields. “I moved away from the city because I wanted a more natural lifestyle, but as soon as my dream was achieved, we suddenly had to begin living with all the fears and unknowns of radiation,” she lamented. “As a surfer, the idea of having to stay away from the ocean is unthinkable. Due to the real possibility of radiation contamination, however, I and most other surfers I know try to limit the time spent in the water—and then make sure we are living healthy lifestyles in order to limit any potential negative effects to our health.”

“In fact, this whole scare has made me appreciate the ocean—as well as life itself—even more deeply,” she added. “If it becomes too dangerous I may eventually have to move elsewhere, but I love living here and will do everything in my power to stay.”

The internet has been a powerful ally to citizens in Japan who seek to bypass official media channels in order to find and share information regarding what is actually happening with regard to the ongoing nuclear disaster. With the installation of a live webcam aimed directly at the Fukushima Daichi plant, for example, citizens are now able to monitor the situation and send out alerts via e-mail and Twitter when—as happened last week, for example—smoke was seen being emitted from one of its reactors.

A message that has recently been circulating around the Japanese Twittersphere calling for action reads as follows:
Here are a few examples of what is happening now in Japan:

1. The Japanese government allows fresh food to be on the market although it contains radiation 20-30 times higher than the global safety standard.

2. The Japanese government does not do anything even with food that contains radiation higher than Japanese safety standards.

3. The Japanese government does not inform its citizens of the results of the seafood radiation investigation, and does not allow Green Peace to conduct a thorough investigation of the sea environment around Japan.

4. According to UK researchers, more than 400,000 additional cancers will occur within the next 50 years on account of the radiation if no preventive efforts take place.

5. Air dose levels of radiation do not reflect the actual doses. Official air doses are half or quarter of the actual doses.

6. The Japanese government insists that 20mSv/year is safe for children at a school yard. The amount is 20 times higher than previous safety standards.

7. Data and information about Fukushima has been hidden, although radioactive particles keep spilling into the water and air every day.

8. Several millions of residents who evacuated from the area surrounding Fukushima still live in public buildings,gymnasiums, and such. There is no plan for them yet.

9. Several millions of Geiger counters donated by foreign counties are sitting, unused, in a warehouse.

Please send an email about these issues to the following Japanese officials:

Mr. Naoto Kan, prime minister (for all of the above):

Mr. Hosokawa, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (Points

Mr. Takagi, Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (Points 5, 6):

Mr. Kaieda, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (Points 7, 8)

Mr. Matsumoto, Foreign Ministry (Point 9):

Please urge them to:

1) Conform to global standards on radiation safety in terms of food, water, and the environment

2) Check radiation levels in the air and water, and on the ground, which are more suitable to protect human life

3) Make all updated radiation information easily available to everyone

4) Disclose information and data regarding the Fukushima plant to Japanese and also the world

5) Take appropriate care of residents who have evacuated and who want to evacuate from Fukushima prefecture

6) Utilize the Geiger counters and other resources donated from foreign countries
Itsumi Kakefuda, a researcher with the Digital Human Research Center (affiliated with the National Institute of Advanced Industrial science and Technology), who translated the above appeal into English, said this with regard to fears among parents in Fukushima/Tokyo:
While different from the PTSD that is occurring within the afflicted areas, many parents of schoolchildren in the Tokyo metropolitan are also expressing fear, anger, and anxiety because of the confusion and lack of information. Clearly, the fundamental problem is the government and TEPCO, because of their horrible crisis communication. Sometimes this stress turns into cognitive/emotional overload, which can then lead instead to denial. Many interpersonal conflicts have also been increasing between those who are extremely concerned and are calling for action, vs. those who have chosen not to worry about the situation.
Others challenging the official line that radiation is safe and harmless are many artists and musicians, including Rankin’ Taxi, who performed at last Saturday’s gathering in Shinjuku. The group teamed up with the Ainu Dub band for the powerful “You Can’t See It and You Can’t Smell It Either," that minces no words (nor images) in its criticism of nuclear power and the handling of the Fukushima crisis:

Internationally renowned author Haruki Murakami delivered a speech last week in Barcelona upon receipt of the Catalonia International Prize wherein he interrogated the values of “efficiency” and “convenience” that he argues led to the Fukushima crisis via Japan’s passive acceptance of nuclear power. He then went on to poignantly challenge human beings across the globe to together create a future that instead prioritizes life and humanity. An English translation of Murakami’s speech is available at the “A Daily Life in Uptown Tokyo” blog .

Further information on what actually occurred at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in the days and weeks following the crisis, which went unreported in establishment news for months, is available in CNN interviews with physicist Dr. Michio Kaku and nuclear engineer Arnie Gunderson.

For more on radiation and precautions against its potential negative effects, see thes essays from herbalist Ingrid Naiman and this lecture by Kyoto University Professor Hiroaki Koide.

Additional reports on Saturday’s demonstrations across Japan may be read in the New York Times and Tokyo Progressive. Paul Jobin's "Dying for TEPCO? Japan's Nuclear Contract Workers" published at The Asia-Pacific Journal providess disturbing insight into the top-down workings of the nuclear power system as it plays out in Japan, and Dahr Jamail's "Fukushima: It's Worse Than You Think" at Al Jazeera online powerfully discusses the Fukushima disaster in its historical context.

Your signing a petition to stop the remaining nuclear reactors in Japan and a transition to clean, safe energy sources would be greatly appreciated. It may be accessed here.

- Kimberly Hughes

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Ainu and Okinawan Human Rights- UN Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination recommendations to Japan

Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discimination meeting at the UN (Photo courtesy of the International Movement against all Forms Discrinination and Racism)

The Japanese government has been receiving increasing criticism for its policies towards the indigenous people of Japan. Just last week, the Shimin Gaiko Centre (Citizens' Diplomatic Centre for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) submitted a report to the United Nations Forum on Indigenous Issues, detailing the abuses of Ainu and Okinawan human rights by governmental plans to build an industrial waste disposal site on sacred Ainu land in Monbetsu, and to construct new bases in Okinawa.

Furthermore, in February 2010, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) also submitted a report on Japan. Based on CERD's findings, they recommended:
  1. The establishment of a national human rights institute
  2. The observance of the indigenous rights of the Ainu people
  3. The engagement in consultation with Okinawan representatives to promote their rights
In March 2011, a year after the recommendations were made, the Japanese government submitted a document in response. While acknowledging the need for a national human rights institution and the insufficiency of current efforts to prevent and handle human rights infringements, the Japanese government has yet to initiate the drafting of legislation on the matter.

Japan reports that the Meeting for the Promotion of Ainu Policies will ensure the respect of Ainu rights as guaranteed by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP):
In order to promote policies by sincerely listening to the opinions of the Ainu people, five of fourteen members of the Meeting for the Promotion of Ainu Policies were appointed from among the Ainu people. Each working group is also making efforts to reflect the Ainu people’s opinions in the policies through their participation. In addition, two prominent scholars of international human rights law participate in the Meeting as well.
There are more Ainu people included in these policy meetings than ever before. Previous expert panels on Ainu policy have included only 1 Ainu person or none at all. However, each working group has the participation of two Ainu people each making the majority of each group non-Ainu. While the " two prominent scholars" are key members of both groups, one Ainu participant is left out of both of the working groups entirely.

The working groups are focusing on the establishment of a "symbolic space for ethnic harmony" and conducting "survey of the living conditions of the Ainu people outside Hokkaido." A multitude of pressing issues covered by UNDRIP, including the Ainu right to control their education, are completely neglected. Therefore, the Japan Society for the Study of Adult and Community Education is currently researching the issues surrounding education for other indigenous peoples in Japan. The Shimin Gaiko Gaikou Centre further analyzed the workings of the Meeting in their response to the Japanese government's comments on CERD:
While the Meeting for the Promotion of Ainu Policies stresses that it refers to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, it has not clearly indicated which paragraphs of the Declaration are taken into considerations, and how these are reflected in their work. Looking into the substantial work of the Meeting, we have not found any essential parts of the Declaration that have been being reflected in its work. Now, the two working groups are have almost reached their own conclusion, however, it is hard to say that the Meeting takes into consideration the various voices of the Ainu living in and out of Hokkaido in their promotion work, and its transparency and representation is still questionable.

We recommend that the Meeting for the Promotion of Ainu Policies or future successive agency of the Meeting has a structure in place to reflect the various voices of the Ainu and allows the Ainu to take their own initiatives in the work of the Meeting.

The Shimin Gaiko Centre also notes that the government has yet to set up a third working group in accordance with the CERD recommendations.

In addition to recommendations based on UNDRIP, CERD also urged Japan to ratify the International Labour Organization Convention No. 169 which specifically covers indigenous and tribal rights. Japan responded that it can not ratify the convention because some provisions are "not consistent with the legal system of Japan." Japan specifically noted: Article 9- respecting the customs of indigenous people in penal matters; and Article 10- giving preference to indigenous methods of punishment other than confinement in prison for indigenous peoples. Japan argues ILO No. 169 would permit the unequal treatment of Japanese citizens. In response, the Shimin Gaiko Centre recommends:
the Government list up all provisions contained in the Constitution, laws and systems that are not consistent with the provisions contained in ILO No. 169, and study how such provisions could be revised so that Japan ratifies ILO Convention No. 169. In doing so, it is recommended that the government conduct a consultation with the Ainu Peoples and Ryukyu/Okinawa Peoples to examine which provisions of the ILO Convention need to be implemented. It is very unrealistic that the Ainu and Ryukyu/Okinawa Peoples request the implementation of Article 9 and 10.
Should the Japanese government follow these recommendations, ILO No. 169 could be ratified with revisions.

Finally, in respect to recognizing the rights of the Okinawan people, the government responded by detailing the actions it has taken on a governmental level to develop the economy of Okinawa, arguing that the Japanese Constitution guarantees the rights of Okinawan people. Shimin Gaiko Centre notes that taking actions only on a governmental level will not ensure Okinawan rights are respected:
In its follow-up information submitted to CERD, the government limited itself to explaining only about its Okinawa promotion measures in the legal and institutional framework, which, according to their explanation, are based on the intentions and interests of the Okinawa prefectural government. CERD, however, encourages a wide range of consultations with Okinawan representatives. It is inadequate and insufficient to guarantee the human rights of the Okinawan people only by responding to what the Okinawa prefectural and municipal governments have requested.

We recommend that in addressing the structural discrimination against the people of Okinawa, the Japanese Government guarantee the rights of the Okinawan people in the context of CERD.

Japan has an obligation to ensure that the Ainu and Okinawan people are fully represented in policy deliberations and that their rights are respected. By following the recommendations of the Shimin Gaiko Centre it can be possible to overcome the institutional exclusion of their voices.

- Posted by Jen Teeter

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Ainu and Okinawan Human Rights- United Nations Forum on indigenous issues

The tenth session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues convened at the United Nations Headquarters, New York from the 16th to 27th of May. Shimin Gaikou Centre (Citizens' Diplomatic Centre for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) vice president, Makiko Kimura, on behalf of her organization, Asia Indigenous Peoples’ Pact, Forest Peoples’ Programme, Citizens' Network for Biological Diversity in Okinawa, No Helipad Takae Resident Society, and Mo-pet Sanctuary Network, submitted a collective statement to the forum.

These organizations urge the Japanese government to fully realize the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and address human rights violations against the Ainu and Okinawan communities. Japan ratified UNDRIP in 2007, and subsequently recognized the Ainu people as the indigenous people of Japan, but does not recognize the indigeneity of the Okinawan people despite UN recommendations.

The report addresses how the government of Japan has violated Articles 29 and 32 of UNDRIP by authorizing projects which affect the lands and/or resources of indigenous peoples (including Okinawans) without "free, prior and informed consent" of the indigenous inhabitants. The report highlights a proposed industrial waste facility project in Monbetsu, Hokkaido, and the (de)construction which will result from the proposal of a new U.S. military base and helipads in Okinawa. The organizations request the direct intervention of the Special Rapporteur to the forum to halt further construction and ensure the establishment of a system by which the Ainu and Okinawans must provide free, prior, and informed consent before such projects are authorized.

Monbetsu City is the site of a sacred river for the Ainu people. Its original name in the Ainu language is Mo-pet, meaning "quiet river." Ainu have sustained themselves from this river and surrounding lands for thousands of years.

"The river used to be naturally winding, with deep pools..the fish breeds naturally here. Once the waste facilities are built and operated, it could bring fatal effects to the wild salmon's habitat."
Despite the historical and intimate relationship between the river and Ainu people, Hokkaido Prefecture, without any consultation with local inhabitants, approved the construction of a dumping site in this natural sanctuary:
First, regarding the Ainu people, the city government of Monbetsu, a municipality in Hokkaido Prefecture (traditional Ainu territory), authorized a plan to build an Industrial Waste Dumping Site near the Monbetsu river on February 26th, 2010. The Monbetsu River is one of the most important places for the co-existence between the Ainu culture and the natural environment, and an important site for autumnal salmon spawning in the Monbetsu area. A traditional ceremony (Kamui Cep Nomi) to thank the deities for providing the Ainu with lots of salmons was revived in 2002, and the ceremony is conducted every autumn by the local Ainu community.

Prior to the authorization, the local Ainu community in Monbetsu, working in collaboration with local Japanese groups supporting environmental conservation, demanded that the city government respect the UNDRIP including land, cultural and environmental rights and the principle of "Free, Prior and Informed Consent" (FPIC) and review the plan from the indigenous peoples’ perspective. However, the city government, unfortunately, has not given any consideration to the Ainu rights and has now authorized this project. As a result, the construction work has been already started, and the local Ainu people have sent application to the Prefectural Pollution Examination Commission (PPEC) to look into the matter.
In 2010, 56 indigenous organizations and 25 supporting NGO and NPOs joined together to gather signatures to a petition calling on Hokkaido prefecture to halt construction plans. One of the petition's signatories, the Ainu Art Project, is producing an animated film entitled The Fox of Shichigoro Stream that describes industrial waste facilities's destructiveness near Hakodate, in southern Hokkaido.

The report also urges the Japanese government to abrogate its proposal to construct a U.S. military base in Henoko and Oura Bay, the ecologically fragile habitat of the Okinawan dugong, and six new helipads in Takae.
Second, regarding the Ryukyuan/Okinawan people, the Government of Japan has not implemented the recommendations of the UN Human Rights Committee and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which call on the government to recognize Ryukyuan/Okinawan people as an indigenous people. As a result, as reported by UN Special Rapporteur Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, Doudou Diene, the heavy presence of the U.S. military bases in Okinawa remains as a form of discrimination against the people of Okinawa. At present, two new military base construction proposalss are being carried out under the agreement between the governments of Japan and the U.S., despite the longtime opposition from local indigenous peoples’ communities.

One massive U.S. military base is being constructed in Henoko and Oura Bay. While the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity (IIFB) expressed its concerns about this plan in the closing statement of the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP10) in Nagoya in 2010, the Government of Japan has ignored the concerns raised in the statement and is proceeding with the plan. Another military base, six new helipads, is being constructed in Yambaru forest, Takae district of the Okinawa island. In response to their protest, the Okinawa Defense Bureau, the local agency of the Government of Japan, has filed Strategic Lawsuit against Public Participation (SLAPP) against local indigenous community members.
The SLAPP was filed against the sit-in demonstrators at Takae. SLAPPs are gaining currency by Japanese corporations and governmental bodies. They seek to pressure defendants into acquiescence by overburdening them with the cost of legal defense, not only infringing on human rights, but also intimidating citizens into silence. Chugoku Electric Power Company has also filed a SLAPP against those protesting against the Kaminoseki nuclear plant.

The report recommends the following:
1. We recommend the Government of Japan shall establish national and local systems in conjunction with indigenous peoples to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, in accordance with the UNDRIP.

2. We recommend that the City Government of Monbetsu shall respect Free, Prior and Informed Consent of the local Ainu community concerned, and to reconsider the authorization of the Industrial Waste Dumping Site.

3. We recommend that the Governments of Japan and the U.S. immediately stop the construction of the military bases in Henoko and Oura bay, as well as helipads in Takae and review these proposals.

4. We request the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people shall use his good office to directly intervene in the Government of Japan regarding the construction of the Industrial Waste Dumping Site in Monbetsu city, Hokkaido Prefecture, and the construction of military bases in Henoko and Oura bay and helipads in Takae, Okinawa Prefecture.
Although the Japanese government recognizes the Ainu as indigenous people, this is in name only. Ainu are not guaranteed rights stipulated by UNDRIP. Therefore, Ainu experience rights infringements not only in Monbetsu, but also in Biratori where the government is planning to build another dam upsteam from the defunct Nibutani Dam and in Asahikawa where issues still remain over land promised to the Ainu by law. Furthermore, Hokkaido University refuses to return Ainu remains stolen from gravesites; the Tokyo Ainu have been repeatedly denied the right to build an Ainu community facility in Tokyo; and the Japanese government ignores requests to honor the right for the Ainu to control their own education.

Unless Okinawans are recognized as indigenous people by Japan, it is uncertain whether UNDRIP can be used as a tool to liberate them from the imposition of U.S. military bases. Competing viewpoints among Okinawans complicate this situation: many do not wish to be considered indigenous in the UNDRIP sense. However, growing solidarity in the international indigenous movement support the Ainu and Okinawan struggles and ensure that human and indigenous rights laws will continue to develop in Japan in keeping with global trends.

- Posted by Jen Teeter

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

How did Moscow come to claim the Ainu Kuriles? "Divine mission" & the fur trade • What fuels interest now? Fish, oil & gas, strategic location...

The volcanic island chain connecting Hokkaido with Kamchatka received their name from the Ainu, the islands' original inhabitants. "Kur" means "man" in Ainu. The latest manifestation of the 20th-century dispute between Japan and Russia over the Kuriles continues to obscure prior historical Ainu ownership of these tiny islands.

Tokyo's claim makes no sense within a contemporary indigenous rights framework that posits indigenous peoples as equals within a community of nations (not to mention historical rectification for historical wrongdoing against them). However, the Japanese claim may have made some sense in the past within an outdated "Age of Imperialism" territorial framework based on the idea of privilege over indigenous peoples and their lands—given proximity of the Kuriles to Japan. (Historian Leo Ching writes that Japanese colonialism needs to be viewed historically and spatially within the larger context of global colonialism by which European nations had seized 85% of the world's land mass by the turn of the 20th century).

In contrast, Russia's claim to the Kuriles is much more of a stretch, even within an imperialistic paradigm. How did Russia (ostensibly a European nation) come to control an empire over the vast breadth of Siberian Asia (first inhabited by indigenous peoples with rich cultures much older than Moscow's) beyond the Pacific to the Kuriles—even farther off the Asian mainland than Sakhalin)?

Revenge and a sense of divine mission (Russia's version of "Manifest Destiny") fueled its adventurers' and soldiers' violent predatory march across Asia, writes Scott Malcolmson in his 1994 history/travelogue, Borderlands: Nation and Empire:
The question of what Russians are doing in Asia has preoccupied Russians more or less since the birth of Russia itself...The traditional date for the founding of "Russia" is 862. By 882, Oleg had established a strong state with its capital at Kiev...

Kievan Russia broke up into principalities in 1054 and was destroyed in 1237 to 1240 by Mongols and Tatars. The latter proceeded to dominate the Russians until 1840...Russians know the 1240 to 1480 period as the "Tatar (or Mongol) yoke," and appear never to have forgiven Asians for humiliating them.

They also appear to have developed a strong sense of mission. Under Ivan III's successor, Basil III, some Russians came to imagine themselves as the army of God and Moscow as the Third Rome...Basil's successor, Ivan the Terrible, began Russia's conquest of Siberia, and Russians continued expanding their territory into Asia until Gorbachev withdrew Soviet troops from Afghanistan. That makes nearly five hundred years of steady imperialism...
Anna Reid provides an economic explanation for Russia's claim in her luminous history of the indigenous peoples of Siberia, The Shaman's Coat, in which she cites the fur trade (seal and sea otter in the Kuriles) as fueling Russia's march through Asia:
What drew them on, swiftly and surely as gold drew the conquistadores to Peru, was fur, especially that of the ferret-like sable. Blacker than night, softer than a snowfall, sable pelts had been the ultimate status symbol since history began...

In the 1500's European demand for fur expanded, thanks to the influx of New World buillion and rise of a showy new merchant class. Chief supplier to the growing market was Russia, whose European forests were soon hunted out...

There duly appeared in Siberia a hereogeneous breed of trapper-fighter-explorers, not unlike the French woodrunners who first penetrated Canada. In theory, they divided into two categories: commercial operators, self-financed or under hire to merchants, and 'servitors' — mostly the unruly soldiers known as Cossacks — in salaried government service. In practice, they behaved so similarly and worked together so often as to be virtually indistinguishable, giving rise to a continuing debate over whether Siberia's conquest was primarily the result of conscious government policy or of haphazard private enterprise. Both groups went armed...

Like their Canadian equivalents, they travelled as far as possible by river, dragging their boats from headwater to headwater and building wooden strategic confluences...From these they set off on fur-gathering expeditions, in the rouse of which they both trapped themselves and extracted pelts, by violence or by barter, from nearby native settlements. Seduced or subjugated, each tribe's duty regularly to produce furs in the future was made official by the imposition of an oath upon its leader...

Haphazard as it was, the conquest of Siberia transformed Muscovy, helping turn it from an obscure princedom on civilisation's fringes into a great European power. Until the end of the seventeenth century, one historian estimates, the fur trade contributed more to the country's economy than any other single activity save agriculture...In 1595 Boris Dogunov was embarassed by a request from the Holy Roman Emperor, Rudolf II, for military assistance from the Turks. Not wishing to jeopardise trade with Constantinople, he compromised by sending Rudolf the pelts of 337,235 squirrel, 40,360 sable, 20,760 marten, 3,000 beaver and 1,000 wolves...

In the meantime, Siberian furs had not only lured Russia into Asia, but helped poltically consolidate the Russia state...

(Stalin with the daughter of a Buryat Party chief. Two years after this once-popular propaganda photograph was taken, her father was shot and her mother sent to a labour camp. Image: Yury Artamonov's Photo Archive

In Siberia the Russians had won themselves a continent, a land on which the sun never set, one of the biggest empires the world had even known... The indigenous people overcome by Moscow included the Khant; the Buryat (the largest indigenous group in Siberia, practitioners of shamanism and Tibetan-inspired Buddhism from the 1700's); the Tuvans (known for throat-singing and shamanism); the Sakha (Russia subjugated Sakha into forced labor long before sending political prisoners to Siberia. Stalin established Gulag forced labor camps on their land where many thousands of Sakha disappeared along with ethnic Russians); the Chukchi (their land was also a site of the Soviet Gulag. Traditionally a nomadic reindeer herders, Chukchi who resisted collectivization were sent to forced labor in mining and logging camps. Between 2-3 million Chukchi died from forced labor); the Ainu; and the Nivkh (banning the Nivkh language and culture, Soviet Russia showcased the Nivkh as a 'model' for a culture that transformed from the Neolithic age to a socialist industrial model).

From 1945-1948, Moscow forcibly deported many Nivkh, Ainu, along with half of the Sakhalin Oroks, and most Japanese to Hokkaido. Since January 2005, the descendants of the remaining Nivkh, and the Uilta, another indigenous people of Sakhalin have engaged in nonviolent protest, demanding an independent ethnological assessment of Shell's and Exxon's oil exploration off the coast of Sakhalin.

(Contemporary Buryat. Image: "A Pearl in the Forest - the movie")

Russia also deported Ainu from Kuriles to Japan (in a related attempt to undermine prior indigenous claims on the seized islands and to shift indigenous social and historical burdens to Japan). However Moscow's attempt to deny the reality of the historically-based indigenous rights of the Ainu and other indigenous people in the Kuriles and Sakhalin has not succeeded. In the past two decades, as a global indigenous rights and historical rectification movement has strengthened indigenous power, Ainu have reasserted their prior claim to the Kuriles.

The Independent reported on the Ainu claim to the Kuriles during the 1992 eruption of the Russian-Japanese dispute in "Ainu people lay ancient claim to Kurile Islands: The hunters and fishers who lost their land to the Russians and Japanese are gaining the confidence to demand their rights:"
Mr. Akibe is from the Ainu people, an ethnic minority who live mostly on Hokkaido and who have been fighting discrimination by the Tokyo government for years. 'The Kuriles are not Russian, and they are not Japanese either,' said Mr Akibe, who was wearing traditional Ainu robes and an embroidered headband. 'We were the first inhabitants of these islands, and lived there before this territorial problem even appeared.' Some Russians laughed nervously while Japanese listeners studied their shoe-laces.

Mr. Akibe produced a map of the Russian Far East, the Kurile Islands and northern Japan, showing the extent of Ainu settlements throughout the region up to the beginning of this century. Fishers and hunters, the Ainu had occupied the Kuriles for centuries before the Russians and the Japanese discovered them in the 19th century. 'You (Russians and Japanese) should both remember the historical rights of the Ainu when you conduct your negotiations,' he said.
In 2005, Ainu representatives again objected to Russian and Japanese claims of ownership:
Representatives of the Ainu nation, an indigenous group in northern Japan, issued a joint statement on November 14 to the Japanese Foreign Ministry and the Russian Embassy in Tokyo claiming territorial rights to the South Kurile Islands and demanding that Japan and Russia cease talks of governmental ownership....

The Ainu explained in their statement that "the four Kurile Islands belong neither to Japan nor to Russia," and that the Ainu have inhabited the territory "since time immemorial," according to Itar-Tass News Agency.

The Ainu have asked that they be granted free access to the islands, and hope to make them an autonomous area of the Ainu nation in the future.

Scientists believe that several thousand years ago the Ainu ethnic group inhabited the whole of Japan, the lower reaches of the Amur River, the Kamchatka Peninsula, the Sakhalin and Kurile Islands.
For more on the Ainu and the breadth of their original territory, see the online presentation of The Smithsonian's pioneering exhibition, "Ainu: The Spirit of a Northern People" that reveals the magnificence of their sea-faring, trans-continental culture (incomparably more sophisticated, prosperous, and creative than the diminished and impoverished far-flung Russian satellite colony that exists in the Kuriles today).

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, recognizing the individual and collective rights of the world's 370 million indigenous peoples (including the right to self-determination, and the right to give or withhold free, prior and informed consent when it comes to the exploitation of our lands, territories and resources) was adopted on September 13, 2007 following more than two decades of negotiations between governments and indigenous peoples' representatives. A majority of 143 states (including Japan, excluding Russia which abstained from voting) voted in favor of the Declaration. (Former British colonies Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States voted against the Declaration, but in the past three years, Australia and Canada reversed their position) In 2008, the Japanese government formally recognized the Ainu as "an indigenous people with a distinct language, religion and culture".

(For recent coverage on Russia's continuing conflict with the indigenous people of Sakahlin, see this 2009 AFP video report. "Sakhalin Energy Project Hampering the Nivkh's traditional lifestyle" that shows how Russian oil exploitation has been destroying what remains of the Nivkh landscape, people and culture.)


Follow-up: On November 12, Canada also reversed its position on the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ainu Youth in Action: Exchange at the Burke Museum in Seattle, Washington

Seattle’s Burke Museum just recently saw off their two Ainu interns, Akira Kikuchi, 24, and Masashi Kawakami, 27, who participated in a first cultural exchange between the indigenous Ainu people and Native American communities in Washington state. (Click here for a previous post on the year-long exchange "to support the revival of cultural heritage of the indigenous Ainu people of Japan") The two interns developed an educational kit about Ainu heritage (available through the "Burke Box" program), curated a small exhibit of cultural artifacts and contribute to a documentary film about Ainu culture produced through the Native Voices film program at the University of Washington.

The interns' stay at the museum culminated in an exchange between 7 members of the Ainu community joined Tulalip Tribes in the Paddle to Makah through the Tribal Journey 2010. A video of the journey can be seen in below and exquisite photos of the canoe landing at Neah Bay and the Ainu's performance during the protocol ceremonies can be viewed at the Burke Museum Blog.

The work of Akira and Masashi, along with the support of the Burke Museum, is a testament to the vitality and renewal of the Ainu people.

- Posted by Jen Teeter

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Ainu and Pacific Northwest Cultural Exchange at the Burke Museum, Washington State

Photo courtesy of the Ainu and Pacific Northwest Culture Exchange Facebook Page

An article in the Seattle based Northwest Asian Weekly featured an account of a recent meeting in Hokkaido between Native Americans of the Puget Sound region (and members of the Ainu Association of Hokkaido last week. This international cultural exchange sponsored by the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture was launched in "an effort to support the revival of cultural heritage of the indigenous Ainu people of Japan."

Members who joined the journey to Sapporo, Nibutani, Akan, and Shiraoi included: Deana Dartt-Newton and Robin Wright (both curators from the Burke Museum), Lisa Marie Oliver (Quinault/Program Assistant), Anna Hoover (Aleut/Filmmaker), Dan Hart (Director, UW Native Voices Film Program) and one representative each from five of the groups who hosted the Ainu when they came to Washington State in December.

According to the Burke Museum press release:
In an effort to support the revitalization of the indigenous Ainu culture of Hokkaido, Japan, the Burke Museum received a $120,000 grant from the Museums and Communities Collaboration Abroad program last year to coordinate a cultural exchange between the Ainu and Northwest Coast tribal groups, such as the Makah, Squaxin Island, Suquamish, House of Welcome Longhouse, Duwamish, and Tulalip communities. The grant focuses on the shared history of sea and canoe traditions between the Ainu and Native Americans.

The 10-person Ainu delegation visited in December where they met and toured Northwest tribal communities and museums, shared issues, and gained insight and background in US/American Indian law, treaties, and land claims vital for their negotiations with the Japanese National Government.

Says grant PI Deana Dartt-Newton, "We had no idea, really, the extent to which these indigenous peoples have experienced the same histories--their ancestors relocated, enslaved, and made to feel ashamed of their heritage as indigenous peoples. However, the sense of pride and excitement during the exchange was incredible and the empowerment as indigenous peoples coming together overshadowed the grief."
This meeting first international trip sponsored by the Burke Museum The two groups met in an effort to support the cultural revitalization of the Ainu people.

To follow their activities, visit the Burke Museum homepage or their Facebook Group- Ainu and Pacific Northwest Culture Exchange.

Petition to Restore the Rights of the indigenous Ainu People

The Asahikawa Council, the Ainu Ramat Organization, and other individuals and organizations* have drafted a petition calling on the Japanese government to realize the indigenous rights of the Ainu people. The content of the petition can be found below. In order to add your name to the petition, email your name, address, and organization that you represent(if applicable) to

After 25 years of tireless struggle by the world's indigenous peoples, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) was adopted by the UN General Assembly on the 13th of September, 2007. This declaration concludes that the theft by dominant nations of the indigenous peoples' inherent rights, including rights to land, territory and resources, and the implementation of internal colonization and execution of assimilation policies are historical injustices.

It also ensures the right to self-determination, guaranteeing political freedom as a bare-minimum right for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world" and calls for the revitalization of deprived rights, such as the rights to land, resources, and compensation, the rights to fully enjoy and pass on indigenous cultures, and the right to education. These rights are by no means newly created, but have been firmly established as guaranteed to all people by international law. Indigenous peoples have been blatantly denied of these rights and robbed of the ability to enjoy them.

With this declaration as a backdrop, both houses of the Japanese parliament adopted a resolution calling for the recognition of the Ainu as an indigenous people of Japan on June 6th, 2008. In the following month, the government established the Expert Panel on Ainu Policy and on July 29th, 2009, the panel's final report, summarizing "new philosophies on Ainu policy-making and concrete suggestions for measures to be taken, was submitted to the Chief Cabinet Secretary.

Ainu people had been aspiring for governmental and parliamentary recognition as an indigenous people for generations and thus its realization inspired the souls of the Ainu Utari (fellow Ainu people)..

However, it has become increasingly clear that despite the Japanese government's claims that the Ainu are recognized as indigenous people, they are still not recognized as indigenous people with rights, in the UNDRIP sense. This governmental attitude is strongly reflected in the expert report which posits that the Ainu (subject people) and Japanese (dominant people) were equal citizens under the law, thereby ignoring the historical responsibility of the modern Japanese Imperial State for forcibly robbing the Ainu of Ainu Mosir (the land where Ainu live) as if it were ownerless, making over 20% of Ainu Mosir (Hokkaido) the emperor's land while implementing policies of colonization and assimilation.

This internal colonization of Ainu Mosir within Japanese borders and subsequent imperial assimilation policy set the precedent for the annexation of the Ryukyu Islands, the colonization of Taiwan and Korea as well as the invasion of China and other parts of Asia. Nevertheless, the Expert Panel on Ainu Policy's final report does not utter a word about the suffering and sacrifice of the Ainu people due to the governmental policy to annihilate and assimilate them into Japanese people. The report also neglects to discuss the responsibility of the emperor and Japanese government as perpetrators in usurping Ainu independence and dismantling their entire social, economic and political system. Moreover, there is no mention of the indignities that the Ainu suffered such as being coerced into using Japanese, and being forced to change their names and receive imperial assimilatory education, as well as having their traditional lifestyle and indigenous customs and practices prohibited. Furthermore, the report implies that the Ainu people are responsible for being robbed of their land, language and culture while also illegitimately insinuating that the lack of the concept of land-ownership or a written language made them ill-fit for modernization.

With this lack of awareness about history as a premise, it is difficult to expect the government to issue an apology or provide compensation, let alone facilitate the lawful return of indigenous rights or self-determination rights. While the report does mention UNDRIP, it also denies the rights of the indigenous Ainu people and only suggests insignificant measures, such as providing cultural education and social welfare, which only serve to cover-up the poverty and cultural loss of the Ainu people. Now the government is forcing Ainu people to be satisfied with these trivial measures and give up on their rights as indigenous people.

The Japanese government has never expressed redress for their 140 year long colonization and assimilation policy against Ainu people. As late as 1991 the government officially announced in their report concerning the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that Japan is a homogenous country and maintained the 1899 Hokkaido Former Aboriginal Protection Act until 1997. Even now within Japanese society, there remains a strongly-rooted sense of disdain towards Ainu people as a dying race and a belief that Japan is a homogenous nation. The Ainu Culture Promotion Law enacted in 1997 ignores the historical discrimination against Ainu people and only focuses on the promotion of culture, neglecting to assure Ainu rights.

The Ainu people have been fighting against assimilation within this paradigm, by persistently raising their voices for the eradication of discrimination and the restoration of their rights, and by respecting traditional culture and indigenous ways of knowing that have been passed on from their ancestors who sacrificed so much. Now we would like to maintain solidarity with their voices, not to seek protection or a blessing from the government, but rather, to demand the recognition of the modern Japanese Imperial State's historical responsibility and the restoration of the indigenous and self-determination rights as stipulated in UNDRIP. Upon agreement of the statement above, we would also like to urge the Japanese government to engage in charanke (dialogue) on equal footing with representatives from all Ainu organizations and conduct a review of Ainu policies. By receiving your signature on this petition, we sincerely hope that in solidarity with you, we can encourage the government to move in the right direction.

This petition does not only seek to rectify the injustices of the Japanese government but to transform the ideas of Japanese people and the ideas within Japanese society about human rights, democracy and sense of history. It is paramount that we create a future where we can have an equal and trusting relationship with all of our neighbors, including indigenous peoples. We sincerely ask for your cooperation.

The following two items are the content of the petition. We would like to make the first collection of signatures by the end of January.

1. We urge you to recognize the historical responsibility of the modern Japanese Imperial state in forcibly robbing the Ainu's inherent rights to land, resources and territory, and to implement the restoration of indigenous rights and self-determination rights as stipulated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (adopted in 2007).

2. Upon agreement of the statement above, we urge you to engage in charanke (dialogue) on equal footing with representatives from all Ainu organizations and conduct a review of Ainu policies.

*Onnagumi Inochi, Kim Shijong (Poet), Sataka Makoto (Weekly Friday Magazine Editorial Board), Shin Sugok (Human Resources Development Consultant), Tanaka Yuko (Weekly Friday Magazine Editorial Board), Pak Kyongnam (Essayist), Hariu Ichiro (Maruki Gallery Director), Fujisaki Ryozo (National Trade Union Council President), and Maruyama Mikiko (Onnagumi Inochi)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Learn more about the indigenous Ainu of Japan (English online resources)


Farside Music Interview of Oki (August 3, 2005)

Oki Dub Band Official Website


"The Ainu Art Project Meets Kyoto"

"AINU REBELS-RERA CISE-Tokyo Ainu Restaurant-KILA OKI fusion- UMEKO ANDO",000things/117.html

Ainu: Spirit of a Northern People [Online Exhibition]


"Ainu Okay An Wa (The Indigenous Ainu are Here)!: "Tokyo Ainu", a film",000things/231.html


"Ainu: Gengo/Bunka no Fukkō to Rekishi no Yokuatsu' (Ainu: Promotion of Language/Culture and Suppression of History)"
By Osamu Okuda
United Nations Global Seminar 2008

"Nao Somo Kuokere (The Work is Unfinshed): Considering the Ainu Language"

Project U-E Peker: Introducing the Ainu oral tradition to the English-speaking world, available:

"The Song the Owl God Himself Sang 'Silver Droplets Fall Fall All Around' An Ainu Tale."
By Chiri Yukie and Seldon Kyoko (2009)
The Asia-Pacific Journal, 4-5-09

Unofficial Summary of the Ainu Expert Meeting on the Status of Ainu Language

Organizations and DocumentsThe Foundation for Research and Promotion of Ainu Culture

Indigenous Peoples' Summit in Ainu Mosir 2008 Declaration

Shiraoi: Living the Ainu Tradition

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007) (A/RES/61/295)

United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review Japan (2008) (A/HRC/8/44), conducted by the United Nations Human Rights Council

Japanese Policy, Grassroots Activism, and Indigenous Rights

"Divided Lives: The story of Indigenous People and the Pacific War"
By Tessa Morris-Suzuki
The Asia-Pacific Magazine

"Indigenous at last! Ainu Grassroots Organizing and the Indigenous Peoples Summit in Ainu Mosir"
By ann-elise lewallen
The Asia-Pacific Journal, 48-6-08

"New Japanese Governmental Ainu Policy Promotion Panel to include 5 Ainu members"

"On the Dawn of a New National Ainu Policy: the “‘Ainu’ as a Situation” Today"
By Mark Winchester (2009)
The Asia-Pacific Journal, 41-3-09

"Report on the Initiatives in the Promotion of the UNDRIP in Asia and Good Practices in the Exercise of Indigenous Peoples Rights"
By The Asia Indigenous People Pact

"Yūshikishakondankai kara no Tōshin (Ainu Panel Experts Special Report)"
By The World Indigenous Peoples Network Ainu (2009)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

New Japanese Governmental Ainu Policy Promotion Panel to include 5 Ainu members

The Hatoyama administration announced on December 25th that it will create an "Ainu Policy Promotion Panel" that will carry on the work of the "'Expert' meeting panel on Ainu policy" that was abolished by the same administration this November 2009. The panel met from June 2008-June 2009 and released its final report in July 2009. The report has been greatly criticized by the Ainu community for a variety of reasons. The Asahikawa Ainu Association and the Ramat Ainu Organization note in their petition (available for signing until January 31st 2010) calling for the restoration of Ainu indigenous rights in accordance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:
This internal colonization of Ainu Mosir within Japanese borders and subsequent imperial assimilation policy set the precedent for the annexation of the Ryukyu Islands, the colonization of Taiwan and Korea as well as the invasion of China and other parts of Asia. Nevertheless, the Expert Panel on Ainu Policy's final report does not utter a word about the suffering and sacrifice of the Ainu people due to the governmental policy to annihilate and assimilate them into Japanese people. The report also neglects to discuss the responsibility of the emperor and Japanese government as perpetrators in usurping Ainu independence and dismantling their entire social, economic and political system. Moreover, there is no mention of the indignities that the Ainu suffered such as being coerced into using Japanese, and being forced to change their names and receive imperial assimilatory education, as well as having their traditional lifestyle and indigenous customs and practices prohibited. Furthermore, the report implies that the Ainu people are responsible for being robbed of their land, language and culture while also illegitimately insinuating that the lack of the concept of land-ownership or a written language made them ill-fit for modernization.
The "Expert" Meeting was far from an expert meeting, with only one Ainu person included out twelve members, some of whom knew very little about the Ainu people or the issues they face. The Ainu member was the president of the Hokkaidō Ainu Association, Katō Tadashi. However, considering that the Hokkaidō Ainu Association membership is only 14.4% of the known Ainu population (many Ainu people do not declare their ethnic background on government censuses), at have registered themselves as being Ainu), it is a stretch to believe that Mr. Katō could have represented the varied interests and aspirations of all Ainu people. See Mark Winchester's article at the Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus for further critical analysis of the 'Expert' Meeting.

In response to the dismay with the panel and its report, the Hatoyama government abolished it along with other policy panels from the previous Aso administration. The new Ainu Policy Promotion Panel is to include five Ainu members. It is still unknown who the five members will be, but this is a step in the right direction. See Jiji news for information in Japanese. (This article is no longer available at this link. The original article has been copied onto this link at Liralen42)

-Jennifer Teeter