Until 400 years ago, the Ainu controlled Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan's four main islands. Today they are a small minority group of Japan. They are a hunting and fishing people whose origins remain in dispute. Long before the people who would come to be known as "the Japanese" completed their migrations from the Asia mainland, the islands of Japan were already inhabited by a race of people known as the Ainu ("human"). On this northernmost island, (Hokkaido), in the "snow country," there still may be found remnants of this once proud and vigorous people who roamed the Japan islands long before the Japanese themselves arrived.More links inside
The first comprehensive attempt to study Ainu culture was not undertaken until 1968 and by that time, the Ainu population had already dwindled considerably and they themselves had, in large part, begun assimilating with the Japanese and became absorbed into the general population.Previously, Culture and Arts, Wiki, On-line museum, PBS Nova link Language (and here),Religion, Artifacts, Photos, Overview, Discrimination, Racism, and the future (you tube) ,via the amazing AINU REBELS.
In recent centuries (particularly with the 1889 Hokkaido Former Aborigines Protection Law) they have been subject to Japanese government policies of modernization and integration. As with indigenous (native) peoples in the United States and many other nations, the Ainu have largely assimilated. And like many other such groups, there have been signs of cultural revival recently.
The first official acknowledgment of any kind of separate Ainu identity came only in 1999. And on Friday of this week the Ainu were finally granted recognition as an indigenous people by Japan's parliament.
According to the resolution, "Many Ainu were discriminated against and driven into poverty during Japan's modernization process."
The resolution urged the government to recognize the Ainu as indigenous people with their own language, religion and culture. In addition, it asks top government officials to compile comprehensive measures after hearing expert opinions.
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