Ainu Language Policies – Past and Present

November 22, 2016
12:30 PM - 01:30 PM
Lunch and learn
Hickman Building (HHB) 120

This talk will give a short introduction to Japanese assimilation policies targeting the indigenous people of Japan, the Ainu, from ~ 1800 up to the present. First we will look at loanwords between Japanese and Ainu-itak (especially place-names), followed by a summary of the process of colonization of Ainu homelands in the course of mass immigration of Japanese settlers after 1868 (inauguration of the modern Japanese state). During the process the professional profile of the Ainu changed from independent hunters/gatherers/tradesmen to workers for Japanese trading companies, and finally to welfare recipients.

School education was the most efficient tool to eradicate the Ainu language and thus sever the ties to a culture based on orally transmitted knowledge. In the late 1920s the government of Hokkaido discontinued the system of special schooling assuming that >almost nobody uses the Ainu language and most of the younger generation do not know it<.

There will be a summary of Ainu legislation since 1899. This act was about forced assimilation and public welfare. Only in 1997 the Ainu were officially acknowledged as a cultural minority, followed by 2008 which sees the Ainu as the indigenous people of Japan.

Finally, the talk will end with some impressions from a modern classroom.

Reading list and Bibliography 

CAPI Communications