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Their culture is one of the oldest in the Far East. Their holidays and animist chants reflect their gratitude to nature, a sort of universal environmentalism. Though Ainu practices were long forbidden, her mother’s family, that came from the mountains, was able to transmit these thousand-year-old traditions to her. Today, she also dedicates herself to transmitting this knowledge and teaches children dances, sewing, and skills like how to make Tonoto, a sake that was secretly prepared by older women and served to men during ancestral rituals, the Kamuy. She conveys the base of a culture that is not just folklore.

“Culture cannot be sold.”

Ainus are devoted to the spirits (kamuy) of nature and animals. The spirit of the bear is the most important: it is the master of the mountains and the gardien of animals.

For centuries, a ceremony was dedicated to bears: Lyomante. This is a religious ritual that humbly thanks the spirit of the bear for its sacrifices and guarantees the success in hunting. Forbidden during Japan’s forced assimilation period, the ceremony was held in secret until the mid-20th century before becoming a Russian and Japanese tourist attraction. For this reason, the Ainus decided to abandon this tradition.

In 1931, the Scottish anthropologist Neil Gordon Munro lived with the Ainus in the village of Nibutani on Hokkaido island. He filmed this ceremony where we find the key elements of Ainu culture like Tonoto, the sacred drink and the dances.

 

 

 

 

Today, the Ainus still feel that they are dispossessed of their culture. The 2020 Olympic Games will be held in Tokyo. The opening ceremony will include demonstrations of folkloric Ainu dances. This is only a facade in a country where the Ainus are still not considered to be completely Japanese.

“Women dance (…) for the spirits, for the gods.”

“I would like us to no longer be a minority within the Japanese nation.”

The socio-cultural transformations of the Ainus in Japan: relationships of power, violence and indigenous resistance in Hokkaido, Lucien Clercq

 

 

Un voyage chez les Ainous: Hokkaïdo (A voyage to the Ainus: Hokkaido) 1938, André Leroi-Gourhan, Arlette Leroi-Gourhan, Editions Albin Michel

An ethnographic study that includes many images, published like a travel notebook through the Ainu lands.

Aïnous à Yezo (Ainus in Yezo) François-Constant Girel (1897)

François-Constant Girel, who worked for the Lumière brothers, filmed the first movies in Japan at the end of the 19th century.

To see the film : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tchR4rPo3rI

 

The Ainu Bear Ceremony, Neil Gordon Munro (1931), The Royal Anthropological Institute.

Dr. Neil Gordon Munro was one of the first anthropologists to study the Ainus. In 1931 he filmed the bear ceremony in the village of Nibutani on Hokkaido island.

ARCHIVE : THE AINU BEAR RITUAL

TO KNOW MORE

HEIR TO THE AINU CULTURE

Une quête de la vérité sur la route des larmes

 

C'est à l’hôtel Bonaventure de Montréal qu'ont eu lieu les premières auditions de la commission d’enquête. Fanny Wylde retrouve Cheryl, de la communauté Mohawk, sidérée par le désintérêt de la police pour la recherche de sa sœur après le signalement de sa disparition. Carleen, mère de trois enfants, sera retrouvée par hasard par un chasseur, sept semaines plus tard, à deux kilomètres de chez elle. Morte. Elle s'est suicidée. Cheryl s’interroge encore sur une forme de racisme, l’apathie politique et l’indifférence des médias qui font passer ces crimes pour de simple faits divers. Pour Cheryl et pour toutes les autres familles de victimes, la commission d’enquête offre une lueur d’espoir et de justice.

THE STORY OF SEIKO AND 80 YEARS OF DISCRIMINATION

Before she became proud of her origins, Seiko felt like a foreigner in her own land. She was the victim of stubborn prejudicial comments like “they are not Japanese”, “they don’t have slanty eyes”, “they have hair while the Japanese people are hairless”. The bullying began when she was 4 years old, when children threw stones at her face and even forbid her to speak Japanese. Then followed the spiral of discrimination. Since she didn’t go to school and had no education, her livelihood was precarious and she existed below the poverty line, thus feeling doubly discriminated against. Under pressure from the patriarchy, she remained silent.

Today at almost 80, living alone and abandoned by her children who moved to Tokyo to seek their fortune, she hopes to spend her last years calmly and peacefully.

“My ancestors blood flows in me and I want to shout out that I am a real Ainu from Hokkaido.”

Dates:

Numbers :

Films :

Books :

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

Thesis :

IT'S HARD TO BE AN AINU

Shoko was born in a village and sheltered from discrimination. It was only when she was 10 and attended a mostly wajin (Japanese) school, that she discovered she was different from her schoolmates and read about this in her school books. The Ainus were described as being a primitive, unclean people who kill and eat bears. This was a shock. Then followed bullying and discrimination. Until she was thirty, she internalized these injustices. She married a wajin man and hid her origins from her children to project them from discrimination and social violence. Once they had grown up, she decided to “come out” and fully assume her Ainu identity. She became an active militant in the Utari (“brother”) cultural association and created an association to collect money for elderly people and women who live on their own. Since 2008, she has participated in every demonstration to obtain rights for indigenous peoples.

“I ‘came out’ at the age of 30.”

In Northern Japan on Hokkaido Island, the archipelago’s first inhabitants were the Ainu peoples. They came from Jomon proto-Mongoloid peoples and their civilization dated from 1300 B.C. For a long time they lived by fishing and hunting and had their own language, religion and customs. 

But under Japan’s Meiji era (1868-1918) the Ainus underwent a violent assimilation process that required them to abandon their lands, fishing rights, dialect, names and culture.

Forced by colonial powers to be sedentary, they were stripped of their identity by the “law of the ancient indigenous peoples of Hokkaido” adopted in 1899.

It was only in the 1970s that the Ainus began to have their voices heard. In 1997 a law for promoting Ainu culture was adopted by the government and on June 6, 2008 Japan officially recognized the Ainus as a true indigenous people. 

Today they are still victims of strong social, economic and ethnic discrimination to a point that a large part of them prefer not to speak about their origins. But their culture has today officially become the pride of the country and also a tourist attraction.

“I would like to say that I’m proud to be an Ainu.”

HEIR TO A FORGOTTEN CULTURE

NUMBER OF AINUS

IN THE LAST HOKKAIDO CENSUS : OFFICIALLY  

THE AINU HIGH SCHOOL ENROLLMENT RATE IS

OF AINUS EARN LESS 

THAT 3.5 MILLION YEN

(27,000 EUROS) ANNUALLY WHILE THE REGIONAL AVERAGE IS AROUND

4.2 MILLION YEN A YEAR

HOKKAIDO

POPULATION

HOKKAIDO ISLAND WAS ANNEXED AND OFFICIALLY COLONIZED BY THE JAPANESE 

DEMONSTRATIONS

AGAINST 100 YEARS OF JAPANESE COLONIZATION

 

THE AINUS WERE CONSIDERED TO BE TOURIST ATTRACTIONS AND EXHIBITED IN INTERNATIONAL WORLD'S FAIRS

 

THE FIRST TIME THE JAPANESE COURTS RECOGNIZED

THE INDIGENOUS CHARACTER OF

THE AINUS

CREATION OF THE ASSOCIATION OF HOKKAIDO AINUS

THAT BECAME HOKKAIDO UTARI KYODAI

THE JAPANESE PARLIAMENT RECOGNIZED THE EXISTENCE OF THE INDIGENOUS AINU PEOPLE  AND PROMISED TO IMPROVE THEIR LIVING CONDITIONS

OF AINUS ARE FULL-BLOODED

THE OTHERS ARE OF MIXED RACE

DES AÏNOUS

NE TERMINENT PAS LEURS

ÉTUDES SECONDAIRES

%

,7 %

1868

1968

1930

JUNE 6TH 

2008

20

BEGINING OF THE

 

TH CENTURY 

1997

%

,6

%

PORTRAIT

PORTRAIT

HEIR TO THE AINU CULTURE

HEIR TO THE AINU CULTURE

SEIKO, 80 YEARS OF DISCRIMINATION

SEIKO, 80 YEARS OF DISCRIMINATION

ARCHIVE

ARCHIVE

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TOKUDA      SHOKO

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TITRE-symbole-quebec

TOKUDA      SHÔKO

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ARCHIVE

CRÉDITS

SEIKO, 80 YEARS OF DISCRIMINATION 

HEIR TO THE AINU CULTURE

TO KNOW MORE

THE PORTRAIT

THE SUBJECT

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