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Japan's 'vanishing' Ainu will finally be recognized as indigenous people (cnn.com)
182 points by Breadmaker 35 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 86 comments

This reminds me so much of my own lost heritage.

My parents were Sami and Kven, but they didn't teach us, the children, their mother tongues. When they were growing up in the 50s and 60s, Norwegian schools would punish children who spoke their mother tongues instead of Norwegian. There was an explicit policy of assimilation and being Sami in particular carried shame.

Unlike the person in the article, I was aware of my background. However, I am as robbed as he is of any cultural heritage. Our parents raised us as Norwegian — a generic version of it with few local roots except for the accidental Sami influences that did slip through the cracks. It didn't help that I grew up in a central area mostly populated by people from the surrounding areas. The distinguishing trait of my home town is that it doesn't have one.

I feel mostly like a mutt. When I travel Norway, I see people with an actual culture, and I envy them a little. I don't have that kind of anchoring or rich tradition to draw on.

Cultural erasure is such a violent crime. I’m sorry to hear this.


People are forced into cultural erasure by discriminatory practices of their neighbors/governments. They are forced with a choice: pretend to fit in or compete with a handicap. Handicapping a demographic is violent in the sense that it is a forceful abuse.

The word violence, to some people, means only "physical force", but I think using it this way is a recognition that other forms of force are equally forceful.

Maybe abusive is a better word. Violence does also have a connotation of suddenness and heat-of-the-moment action.

So maybe the connotations were a little misaligned from some perspectives, but it's far from untrue.

Unless I've missed something non-obvious in your eloquent rebuttal.

No, you didn't miss anything.

That's a very nuanced perspective you have. You've given me something to think about. Thanks.

I'm not so sure. Beating children when they speak in their own language seems violent to me.

Sure, beating people is violent. I didn't realize that's what we were talking about.

It was at the beginning of his comment. I think you may have been half right anyway. Technically violence only covers that punishment part.

But he probably did mean the systematic and purposeful actions to wipe out a culture were violent.

Though you meant that violence technically involves something physical, right?

But I think the English language is flexible enough to use the word violent to try and emphasize the evil of one cultural group wiping out another.

> But I think the English language is flexible enough to use the word violent to try and emphasize the evil of one cultural group wiping out another.

This is the core disagreement I have: I don't believe English should be that flexible. The word "violence" should necessitate physicality. People are trying to sneak the horribleness of physical harm in through the backdoor into discussions of non-physical harms in order to color perceptions of these non-physical harms. It's reminiscent of the "words are violence" idea.

I don't know what happened to ThJ in his Norwegian schools, and he or she didn't go into any great detail. Maybe it was violent? Maybe it was just really horrible. It's possible for something to be bad without us having to mischaracterize it.

> I don't believe English should be that flexible

And yet it, like any other language, is.

The sociolinguistic term of what you are engaged in would be prescriptivism, to prescribe that some term should only mean a certain narrow subset of the definitions ascribed to it, or that certain terms should only be used in pre-approved manners both grammatical and rhetorical.

Prescriptivism is very important for maintaining the ability for the majority of people who speak a language to communicate, and educators tend to be prescriptivist with very good justification. However, it's not an attribute that serves argumentation all that well; too much time is devoted to what a particular lexical item, a word or a phrase, might or perhaps should mean, rather than actually engaging with the underlying meaning.

Communication is, after all, the movement of a message from one interlocutor to another. Yes, unambiguity is important, but so is engaging with the actual argument. If someone is calling cultural erasure 'violent', it does more service to both sides of the debate to enquire further into that which is supposed to be violent, allowing perhaps the elaboration of the argument to justify its use of such metaphor.

The opposite of prescriptivism, descriptivism, is a much more useful tool (and attitude) when it comes to the way by which people actually use language, constantly changing. Change, however, is not the root of the difference of opinion between you and GP, as I shall explain in the next section.

> The word 'violence' should necessitate physicality.

From its roots in Latin, 'violence' never necessitated such a thing. Violentus (from vis, 'strength') can mean "full of [physical] strength" but also 'vehement'.

It is my estimation that nobody can be physically vehement. They might exhibit certain traits, perhaps brutish intimidation, to achieve an air of vehemency, but it is certainly not a physical attribute. As far back as the days when Latin was not a dead tongue but one flitting about two continents, the poetic and rhetorical device of metaphor was alive and well — even to call it alive is metaphor itself!

English, the bastard child of so many languages since, is not immune. To say that it should be would be to close the stable door long after the horse has bolted.

> People are trying to sneak the horribleness of physical harm in through the backdoor into discussions of non-physical harms in order to color perceptions of these non-physical harms.

They're using language as intended. One of the great gifts of language is metaphor, the proper command of which is not only the close, personal friend of the poet, the politician, but even the simple armchair

It's natural that people should reason about the non-physical world by reference to the physical world; it is our natural starting point for turning the abstract into something about which one may efficiently communicate its nature, its severity, etc.

Take the word from whence 'violence' takes its origin, vis. It means 'strength'. Obviously, there are people in the world whose physiques make them strong. There are those whose relative lack of muscular development makes them, relative to some abstract benchmark, weak.

You can use the same words to refer to the bitterness of a cup of coffee.

> I don't know what happened to ThJ in his Norwegian schools

I suggest that rather than attack the wording of the argument, it would be preferable to find out what was meant, how severe the cultural erasure was, what steps were in place to enact it, and how the participants of that culture view it from their own perspective.

For many a participant of a culture once or still undergoing cultural erasure, 'violence' is still too lax a term.

I appreciate the time you’ve taken to advance the discussion and inject helpful and tactful nuance.

Good lord.

What's your reasoning?

Violence has a specific meaning, and an essential part of it is that there is physical harm being done. There is an increasing tendency to equate words with violence, but things can be bad without being violent.

According to Merriam Webster[1], one definition of violent is "extremely powerful or forceful and capable of causing damage". Another is "EXTREME, INTENSE".

Further, according to the Oxford Living Dictionary[2], violence can also mean "involving an unlawful exercise or exhibition of force" or "very strong or powerful". The same dictionary [3] also lists a phrase, "do violence to", meaning "damage or adversely affect".

Obviously, the definitions of words such as "damage" and "powerful" apply in a metaphorical sense, not a literal sense. This should go without saying.

So, as long as we don't cherry-pick the meaning of the word 'violent' to specifically exclude these definitions, which would ultimately constitute a strawman argument, then I see no contradiction that cultures, through excessive governmental forces such as punishing children for speaking their heritage language(s), interdicting the use of a language in public through social engineering, or even forbidding under pain of fine or imprisonment for manifesting one's culture, justified in law as constituting some sort of social nuisance, have been and continue to be subjected to violent suppression and oppression all around the world.

[1] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/violent

[2] https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/violent

[3] https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/violence

> Violence has a specific meaning, and an essential part of it is that there is physical harm being done.

I think this is an assumption / belief that just isn't true, no matter how much you want it to be. Adjectives, like "violent", are used metaphorically all the time, and the use of metaphor isn't inherently incorrect

Like vampires, sucking the soul from your body.

I am sorry to read this.

It is sadly the default mode of 'nation building', perhaps inherently so. One thing I would like to add is please don't blame your parents. No doubt they experienced the sort of systemic prejudice from the Norwegian state, and wanted to spare you that.

For anybody interested in learning a bit of Ainu people in a fun way, I highly recommend the anime Golden Kamuy (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Kamuy)

Hinna hinna!

There are international treaties on the indigenous peoples' rights but the governments are slow to implement them. For a similar situation in Europe, see how the Sami people are still lacking some self-determination rights in Lapland: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sámi_people#Discrimination_aga...

> "Bob Marley sang that people who forget about their ancestors are the same as a tree without roots," says Kano, 62. "I checked the lyrics as a teenager, though they became more meaningful to me as I matured."

A stark contrast to the 'accident of birth' attitude prevalent in much of the West.

I've noticed that almost no one talks about Bob Marley's Welsh father.

That might be because he wasn't Welsh, but a Jamaican-born son of an Englishman.

I was wrong, he was English, not Welsh, apparently. But he was born in Crowborough, East Sussex, not in Jamaica.


Finally! I'm so glad to hear this. Hopefully awareness will spread and the Ainu culture and language will be preserved as a result.

What does is mean in "indigenous people"? where did the other Japanese people come from?

I think they should definitely be considered a minority, while still continuing with the actions mentioned in the article, like recognizing their culture and trying to help them after suffering discrimination.

But I always find the term "Indigenous" weird, because we all came from somewhere, so will American from Italian descent be considered "Indigenous" (just to Italy and not America)? I feel like that word is always used to describe non western culture, things and customs that are considered "less advanced", less modern, that we need to preserve, when in reality I think it's just another culture that we need to respect and except, and that by calling that group of cultures "Indigenous" there is some racism involved (by all participants)

The Yamato ethnicity (大和民族 Yamato minzoku), primarily descended from the Yayoi people (who are relatively recent arrivals from the mainland, i.e. first millennium CE), historically occupied Honshu, Kyushu, and Shikoku. They're the ethnic group usually called "Japanese," and the majority. The Ainu ethnicity, primarily descended from the Jomon people (who represented an earlier wave of in-migration to the Japanese archipelago, thousands of years BCE), historically occupied Hokkaido. Hokkaido was only integrated into the main Japanese polity in the last few hundred years.

But, it's all fraught and complicated, conceptually(/politically/culturally) and empirically. (For instance, Yamato people also have Jomon heritage, and these days most Ainu also have Yayoi / Yamato heritage.) So indeed, indigeneity is complicated here, just like it is, as you say, everywhere.

There were known Ainu populations in northern Honshu as well before the Yamato fully assimilated them, though this process happened centuries ago. The Ainu were not limited to Hokkaido.

Yup -- I just didn't want to go into too much detail.

David Howell at Harvard has written quite a bit about identity in Japan -- see esp. "Geographies of Identity in Nineteenth-Century Japan" (2005).

Any other recommendations in the category of long-term Japanese history and anthropology? I find this subject really interesting, but have struggled to find good sources.

Honestly, I'm much more familiar with China scholarship than Japan scholarship, and with historical scholarship than anthropological. But Bruce Batten's To the Ends of Japan might be worth a read. There are also quite a few scholarly works concerning the role of kokugaku (roughly, "national learning") -- a fairly fundamentalist, xenophobic school of philology and philosophy that sought to purge Japanese culture of foreign "impurities", and rose to prominence from the Meiji Restoration through WWII. (It also exercised considerable influence on modern Japanese archaeology in its formative period; my impression is that its nativist premises colored many early archaeologists' findings.) Stuff on social status (John Hall's "container society" and more recent materials) might be interesting too -- e.g. on the status of burakumin).

If you read Guns, Germs and Steel or maybe Sapiens, then the term "indigenous" should start to make sense.

Wikipedia says they are known as "first peoples":


For the most part, that is literally true -- they were the first group of humans on that land, humans having originated in Africa.

These books make the point that agriculture is the essential difference between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples. Agricultural technology enables people to get on boats and take the land of non-agricultural societies. It enables greater popular density and wealth.

This happened all over the world in the same progression, at roughly the same times.

In America, the indigenous peoples came from Asia by way Alaska more than 10,000 years ago. Then Europeans came by boat ~500 years ago.

I don't know much about the history of Japan, but it seems to have been inhabited by non-Japanese/Chinese and then the Chinese ancestors of Japanese conquered the land. If anyone knows details I'm interested.



China was of course one of the first agricultural societies, and this enabled them to expand their territory rapidly, on the Asian continent and beyond. There were indigenous peoples living all over the Phillipines, Polynesia, Hawaii, etc. but they look "Asian" now because of the Chinese expansion. There were two different groups of people that collided.

One thing: one really can't talk about "China" qua society, or "Chinese" qua ethnicity, in this context. While there's a long, long tradition of talking about Zhongguo 中國 ("the Middle Kingdom", though its original meaning was closer to "the states of the Central [Plain]"), and asserting monoculturalism, in reality Chinese regionalism has always been really pronounced -- hence the reality that when spoken, Chinese "dialects" (like Putonghua/Mandarin and Cantonese) are actually more different, and less mutually intelligible, than European Romance languages. (And it goes beyond language -- think regional cuisines. As further illustration, eespecially if you look at Warring States period cultures, there's actually a stark difference between the traditions of the northern plain and of the south, esp. the state of Chu 楚 -- you can even see it, obviously, in their art and artifacts. The aesthetic are wildly different.)

Now, you could argue that Taiwan represented a Chinese conquest of indigenous peoples. But even before the island was annexed (during the Qing dynasty, in 1683 CE) there had been fishermen and pirates from the mainland (and Japan) operating there to some degree.

Ultimately, you have various populations leaving the Asian mainland at different times. Sometimes later populations intermixed/intermarried with populations that had arrived in outlying territories earlier, sometimes they displaced them; usually it was a combination of both. But it wasn't some monolithic ethno-state exploiting a technological advantage to expand its reach -- the reality was much more complicated.

Yes your point is taken, I guess saying "people coming from the geographical area that's now China" is more accurate.

Coincidentally, yesterday I was watching "Civilizations" on Netflix, and they brought up the 1986 discovery of these incredible Bronze Age statues from the 12th-11th century B.C.:


And they were saying this contradicts the "Middle Kingdom" idea, i.e. that all of Chinese culture came from one place. The book Sapiens reminds us that every civilization/government likes to make an argument for why it has inevitable "divine" authority, and China is no exception. They exaggerate their history to claim power.


But I think there is probably a reasonable analogy to Europe. It's not inaccurate to say the "Europeans" conquered the Americas starting around the 1500's.

European states like Spain, Britain, and the Netherlands were constantly at war with each other. But they all made conquests to different places in the Americas at slightly different times (i.e. South and Central America for Spain, the Caribbean, North America, etc.)

These societies shared broad characteristics and influenced other. Not just agriculture, but also property rights, the rule of law, etc. Their spoken and written languages were mutually unintelligible, but they recognized each other's currencies and could trade with each other. They adopted each other's technologies.

Nobody would call them the same, but it is coherent to talk about them as "European". It's a matter of semantics, but I think you can also call a group of disparate people "Chinese" in the same way. Although in the latter case there is a much greater difference in time. The Europe of today has considerable cultural continuity with the Europe of 1500 (art, music, government to some extent, etc.). I don't know how true that is for pre-modern China, although I suspect that if you adjust for the time period, it's roughly similar.

I would be interested in pointers to more resources about that.


Another point: what other term would I use besides "Chinese"? "Asian" does not seem accurate or what historians would use. I think historians would come up with a different term than "China" or "Sino" if the difference were extremely large.

For example, as far as I know Mycenaean society has basically nothing in common with modern Greece -- no continuity in art, music, government, etc. -- but it's still called "Mycenaean Greece" since the land area they occupied is the same.


If there is another word for post-agricultural but pre-modern China, I would be happy to use it! "Chinese" is indeed a big and vague term with a lot of baggage to many people. (I am Chinese myself but born in America.)

> I guess saying "people coming from the geographical area that's now China" is more accurate.

Agreed, but a significant number of scholars still think the Yayoi people came from what's now Korea, and I think that there were also movements of peoples from the Southeast Asian peninsula into the Philippines and Indonesian archipelago. Now, there are certainly overseas Chinese communities in these places who came there recently, i.e. in the last few centuries, and have maintained their Chinese identity -- but the reason why most people in Indonesia look significantly different from most Papuans or Aboriginal Australians is not because of those recent arrivals, but rather because of a wave of in-migration from Southeast Asia that occurred millennia ago, long before China had taken on anything like its current form.

I actually think "Asian" is far and away the better term to use here, and the one historians (I actually am a historian of China) would use: it refers simply and neutrally to peoples from the continent of Asia, just as "Europeans" strictly speaking refers to peoples from the continent of Europe (in contrast with more culturally fraught terms like "Westerners", which connotes the technologies, currencies, etc. you mention). But there are in fact several different terms used to refer to the cultures that have affinities with China's when it comes to philosophy, linguistics, politics, etc. -- "Sinitic" and "Confucian" being the most prominent. (Some just call China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and certain pockets of other areas the "Sinosphere"). How appropriate those terms are is rightly debated, of course, but they are taken seriously as categories of analysis. Lots of members of the New Qing History school of historiography (e.g. Pam Crossley, Mark Elliott, Laura Hostetler, and Emma Jinhua Teng) have written about these issues, as have Ge Zhaoguang 葛兆光, Peter Bol, and Yao Dali 姚大力. James Millward had a good outline of attitudes regarding minorities (少數民族) and ethnicity from the Qing to the present-day in his New York Review of Books article on the current crackdown in Xinjiang a few weeks ago, though I think it's paywalled.

(BTW, I think the general feeling is, in fact, that Chu culture was lineally descended from the Sanxingdui culture -- Sapiens did well to use it as an illustration.)

For the case of Polynesia (including Hawaii), they are considered to be Austronesian: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Austronesian_peoples

It is widely believed that they are related to (and originated from) the aboriginal peoples of Taiwan, which is distinct from Chinese civilization in both genetics, culture and agriculture. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polynesia#Origins_and_expansio...

When the Polynesians arrived by boat in New Zealand (Maori), Hawaii, Easter Island and other islands in the South Pacific prior to AD 1300, they were the first settlers there. Also, their expansion is completely unrelated to "Chinese expansion".

Hawai'i was already occupied before the population Cook met arrived. Like the Chatham islanders (still present when Cook landed, before the Maori learned of them), they were mostly wiped out. In Hawai'i only legends of "menehunes" remain. A similar process happened in England and Ireland, with Gauls displacing the Picts ("pixies"). The Gauls of Britain and Ireland lost their culture and land to Nordic invaders, but stiil represent much of the genetic heritage there.

The "menehunes" arrived via the Marquesas. The present Polynesian population came from Tahiti or Fiji, although all ultimately trace back to Taiwan.

There is some evidence that islands closer to New Guinea were populated more than 20,000 years ago, before the present population swept in.

Japan adds an interesting footnote: the samurai are said to retain a much higher proportion if Ainu genetic heritage than typical Japanese. This observation is not popular in Japan.

>I don't know much about the history of Japan, but it seems to have been inhabited by non-Japanese/Chinese and then the Chinese ancestors of Japanese conquered the land. If anyone knows details I'm interested.

That's quite a strong and controversial claim to be making without strong evidence. From what I understand, most modern Japanese historians are quite opposed to the above idea. As one of the other replies pointed out, it's also a bit anachronistic to be applying terms like China and Japan in this situation.

> From what I understand, most modern Japanese historians are quite opposed to the above idea.

Japan is a country where even in academia, people often have an unshakable belief in the "uniqueness" of their culture. This has made Japanese unwilling to consider connections to other Asian regions and peoples. Consequently, a lot of the scholarly consensus on Japanese history has been formed by scholars from outside Japan who don't have an attachment to the notion that Japan is particularly unique.

Generally, Korean has been seen as the probable source of the Japanese and Ryukyuan languages, not China, and there were Japanoid populations on the Korean peninsula centuries ago. However, Alexander Vovin (one of the world's most respected scholars on the history of Japanese) recently gave a thought-provoking conference presentation arguing that the Japanese language and certain aspects of Japanese culture may well ultimately spring from coastal China.

Do you have a link to Alexander Vovin's presentation somewhere online? It sounds fascinating.

I believe he posted it to his academia.edu.


Given my experience with these outside "scholars" of my own culture, I'm going to go with the Japanese consensus. Often what these people claim as "objectivity" is actually just ignorance that they mask with the pseudoscientific language of the Humanities.

>attachment to the notion that Japan is particularly unique.

Every nation and culture is unique. Given that their language is not even in the same family as any of their neighbors, this notion does not seem unfounded. The hostility that outside scholars have towards this idea does however seem less than objective.

How is "Japanoid" pseudoscientific language? It is standard practice in linguistics and archaeology to add -oid to X to denote languages that the historical record shows were related to X, but were not necessarily the same as X. (Another example are the dialects further north in the Balkans in the first millennium that were related to Albanian but not necessarily Albanian, hence Albanoid).

> Given that their language is not even in the same family as any of their neighbors.

Again, Japanese shares the same family with neighbours they had on the Korean peninsula before the Korean peninsula's demographics changed. Almost no one disputes this. Longer-range connections like Altaic or Martine Robbeet's Transeurasian hypothesis are more controversial, but still within the scholarly mainstream.

See my response here:


As mentioned, the Chinese exaggerate their history to claim power. But "modern Japanese historians" aren't exactly disinterested either.

I'd be interested to read more informed sources on the topics, rather than vague policing of words.

> agriculture is the essential difference between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples

Isn't part of the history of Plymouth that the Mayflower pilgrims had no idea how to farm and were woefully unprepared and thus on the verge of starving, but the indigenous Wampanoag people helped them learn how to do it and survive?

Isn't there massive, widespread and overwhelming evidence that most indigenous societies in the Americas as an example practiced sophisticated agriculture and had an enormous variety of developed crops and techniques including selective breeding, biochar, terracing, enormous terraforming projects, large scale irrigation systems, special varieties of maize for arctic, desert and salty biomes, as well as developing massive trade networks that managed to get central american grown cocoa as far north as Utah?

How could it be that such cultures could possibly be described as being distinguished by not having agriculture?

> > agriculture is the essential difference between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples

Yes, that part of the parent comment stuck out at me as grossly untrue. While some were hunter-gatherers, many American indigenous populations had widespread agriculture [1].

[1] I know it's a bit uncouth to cite wikipedia, but it was easy as a source for something I already knew to be true. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indigenous_peoples_of_the_Amer...

Okay, now the hard question.

Why should we care that anybody was a "first people"? And how long down the line will we recognize a group of people as fist people? Do they not make babies with non first people?

10k years from now are we still going to be going on about "so and so is of so so blood line making him indigenous" ?

While they seem like shitty questions, they are serious, because for somebody like me who knows little about his past, its hard to wrap my mind around being so attached to a group identity that really seems like it matters very little to your ability to succeeded and live a happy life today -- unless -- you declare being indigenous is something special and thus gives you extra rights, or more say, or something? And if having the label brings nothing, they why such the fuss?

Also, I am sure we can all trace our blood back to some "first people", so now what? Can I go back to my "first peoples" land and demand to be called indigenous?

It's not a hard question...

Indigenous peoples have their own cultures, languages, traditions, etc. Unfortunately, colonization has oftentimes wiped out these things, as said in the article:

>The act implemented Japan's compulsory national education system in Hokkaido and eliminated traditional systems of Ainu land rights and claims. Over time, the Ainu were forced to give up their land and adopt Japanese customs through a series of government initiatives.

>High levels of poverty and unemployment currently hinder the Ainu's social progress. The percentage of Ainu who attend high school and university is far lower than the Hokkaido average.

Recognizing that the Ainu are an indigenous people is one of many steps that are necessary to create a more inclusive society so the Ainu can preserve their culture/traditions and not be forced to assimilate.


You took this thread repeatedly into flamewar. That's not what this site is for, so please don't do it again here.

Please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and note this rule in particular: "Comments should get more civil and substantive, not less, as a topic gets more divisive.". If you'd please take that to heart when commenting here from now on, we'd be grateful.

All in all the notion of preserving a "culture" is silly. If any thing we should be documenting what we can for history and moving on.

The documentation that we have been able to do thus far, even when it's in good faith (as documentation-before-annihilation would not be) is woefully insufficient. We can't even document pre-industrial processes well enough to duplicate them in vitro, let alone complex cultures.

Its not that I don't have respect for culture, its I don't have respect for practicing old culture notions in modern day.

And yet here you are, with your out-of-date notion that culture isn't worth preserving.

> So what? Colonization overall has brought humans much further than any st agent culture ever would have.

This is a really disturbing attempt to downplay indigenous genocide committed by colonists, the effects of which still persist today in many government laws and behaviors. You can't say it's overall 'brought us further than any other culture' because there are a number of other actions and events which propelled things further. Your logic would defend some of the worst atrocities in human history under the guise of 'furthering human society' as a whole.

mbrumlow 34 days ago [flagged]

> This is a really disturbing attempt to downplay indigenous genocide committed by colonists.

And this is a disturbing attempt to make it seem as I am saying something other than I am. I don't need to bring up the bad just because I talk about the good. Nor do I need to have make my opening statement a apology to the indigenous people, reminding everybody of things that happened in the past every two seconds.

My logic does not defend or refute, it merely is a analysis of what happened and how it benefited human society today. While other events have made significant strides forward we still have a lot of evidence that shows colonizing promoted the exchange of ideas and melding of new cultures that continue to change -- mostly for the better -- today. We have a lot of evidence of places left untouched, or where colonization failed are some of the worst places with the least access to medical, education, internet, clean water, and tolerance of change and new ideas. These are the places where homosexuals, would be killed on site, where their culture still cuts the genitals of children, where voodoo can remotely kill or strike lightening on a given target, where people run around in the buff throwing spears at modern technology.

Is it coincidence that all the places that were so brutally colonized also happen to be where civilization is thriving, technology and medicine are curing and making lives of the masses better very day.

Part of the issue I have with topics like this is the time shifting. It seems that some people are unable to transport them selves back in time when things were different, and understanding that this was "life" back then - for good - for bad. People at one point took shits in bushes, then we tossed the shit out the window, and now we have -- in most of the places that were colonized -- modern plumbing. I am glad I don't live in times like that, and am glad that most of the worlds land is conquered and our country lines are fairly stable.

Acknowledging that what we have now is good, because of things in the past is not "defending them" or is it saying I would chose them or even enjoy the fact. So please leave your personal attacks out of it, and stick to giving me solid evidence showing me I am wrong.

Talking about "colonization" in a broad sense as if it was a single uniform thing is totally useless. How much commonality is there between, e.g. the British colonialism in Hong Kong or the Portuguese in Macau, and the Belgian colonialism in the Congo?

It's not a particularly hard question, it's answered in the article for that specific case:

The act implemented Japan's compulsory national education system in Hokkaido and eliminated traditional systems of Ainu land rights and claims. Over time, the Ainu were forced to give up their land and adopt Japanese customs through a series of government initiatives.

This was in 1899, not 10,000 years ago. I don't know if they are 'shitty' questions but they aren't very serious since they are framed in a pointedly inaccurate and uninformed way.

>This was in 1899, not 10,000 years ago

The first people were in 1899? Or just the "second" people came in 1899?

Part of my argument is that you can't be a "first" person in 1899, because the first people arrived thousands of years before.

Even the first subject is only partly decedents of the "first" peoples.

So if we are going to go down these lines of people get rights, or special treatment based off being indigenous, what are we really looking at? There are have been 1000s of years of intermingling both known and unknown, a "people" are not a static group, people are changing all the time.

Shitty was not the word I wanted to use but I was in a time crunch, callus is more how I feel on the subject.

special treatment based off being indigenous

Not having your language and culture coercively erased is not 'special treatment'. Again, framing it like that is not some flinty insight into a hard truth. It's just making stuff up.

> Not having your language and culture coercively erased is not 'special treatment'.

Languages and cultures have a life cycle, I am not sure any of us would want to live in a society that tolerated and nurtured every culture that ever existed.

That being said you / me / they, are not their culture. You are a individual, and people should only be treated based off their individual merit. Using your culture as a way to distinguished your self and get special treatment, respect, or reconsecration is literally an extension of racism. This is not something you chose, there for it should be meaningless much like the color of your hair, or skin color. When you treat culture like you are -- you are creating exclusionary boundaries based on happenstance. There is nothing to be proud of because you were born in X culture, because you have done nothing. There is nothing to be ashamed of because you were born in Y culture because you as a individual have done nothing but simply existed. Wanting to preserve it -- and not make anew is just burying your head in the sand.

The article is about discrimination and coercion, not the natural ebb and flow of languages and cultures. If you haven't had a chance to read it, it's probably a good time to do so if you want to discuss what's actually in it.

And this thread is about a small part of the topic. We don't need special designations or considerations to combat discrimination. I am also calling into the question the entire notion of indigenous people -- considering that many of groups in question have lived on the same land for 100s of years. I also call into question the notion that your (as in you/me/anybody) ancestors have any tangible relation to today. In such, that, we grant a clean slate to EVERYBODY when they are born, and judge and treat them only on their merit.

In short, your ancestors accomplishments/failures or sins matter not, for you are a new person.

Part of the issue is cultural preservation, Distinct cultures, particularly indigenous ones, have unique oral and recorded histories, and translation can lose important cultural context.

As an example of that, there are a total of 10 Manchu native speakers left in the world. This is a problem because many Qing-dynasty documents are in Manchu.

Also, ethnic discrimination against indigenous peoples has a long history pretty much globally. Legal equality is often not enough, because the past couple centuries have been spent whittling their economic and social capital to basically nothing. Reparations or subsidy is required for even a hope of getting those people on equal footing.

> there are a total of 10 Manchu native speakers left in the world. This is a problem because many Qing-dynasty documents are in Manchu

The lack of Manchu native speakers is not a problem for dealing with Qing-era state documents. The Manchu language is well-described and for many, many decades Han Chinese scholars (and then foreign scholars in Europe and North America) have been trained to work with Manchu sources. Does the lack of Latin native speakers hinder anyone from working with a new Roman-era text or inscription?

Furthermore, those handful of remaining native Manchus heavily code-switch with Chinese, and they have lost a great deal of their native Manchu vocabulary (a common phenomenon as a language dies), so even if you did show them a Qing-era text, they would probably be unable to understand much of its terminology without special training.

I am all for protecting language diversity, but your Manchu example is uninformed.

A lack of native speakers can inhibit context. How many translations exist of, say, the Aeneid, or Beowulf?

If Manchu didn't need to be protected because of how widely known it is, the notoriously assimilationist PRC would not be launching an initiative to translate all the documents, and would not be promoting Manchu language use and education[0]. You don't see similar efforts with, say, Shanghainese.

[0]: https://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/1982570/quie...

Language changes, and texts that were written before in a language are not necessarily intelligible to native speakers today. 2000 years after the Aeneid was written, ordinary native speakers of the language it was written in (i.e now French, Italian, Spanish, Romanian, etc.) are unable to make much sense of it, let alone provide valuable insights to scholars. It is trained non-native speakers who are able to read it at all.

Similarly, even if Manchu had not become so moribund, its native speakers probably would have been no more proficient in Qing-era texts, especially considering that they represent an elite literary style and bureaucratic terminology, than trained non-native speakers.

Speaking from experience in India, the indigenous people in India form the lowest strata of caste system. They were I'll treated and exluded from society for 1000s of years. Government now has a "schedule" of indegenous people that require government aid and affirmative action in jobs. These are people living in abject poverty.

your ancestry and heritage are very much attached to your ability to succeed and live a happy life today, in most parts of the world. That is why people want these things recognized so that statistics can be collected to shape public policy. This is even more so for people that would be indigenous such as native americans, aboriginals, tainos, and ainu.

> But I always find the term "Indigenous" weird, because we all came from somewhere

Right but of course there is a difference between coming to NA less than 200 years ago and 15,000++ years ago.

When settlers arrived in North America, Indigenous Nations in North America were systematically stripped of their lands and titles and worse. In Canada at least the notion that 'everyone came from somewhere' is viewed as a settler rhetorical tactic to loosen and obfuscate Indigenous title to the land and this is not taken kindly by Indigenous persons.

Consequently in Canada Indigenous people will often state that they've been in NA 'since time immemorial' or more simply 'always'. This is not scientifically likely to be true, but it's essentially a strong assertion and underlining of the fact that the land is their unceded land and that settlers are settlers to it.

If you apply the theory that any conquered land still eternally belongs to whoever it was conquered from, then almost everybody on Earth owes their land to someone else, since everyone is descended from conquerors. This includes the American natives, who warred and took land from each other frequently.

Does place X "really belong" to tribe A, who sold it to white people? Or to tribe B, who were previously conquered by tribe A? Or to tribe C, who were conquered by tribe B even before that? And so on.

It also shades quickly into nativist ideas that delegitimize immigrants since even after generations since they're not "really from" the place where they live. If white Americans aren't "really from" America, it's not hard to argue that e.g. black British aren't "really from" the UK and don't have a true right to exist there if the natives disagree.

If we're going to have any coherent framework around this at all, it has to include some duration of time after which people are considered naturalized to a land. I'm inclined to say that someone who was born in a place and lived there their whole life has a natural, native right to live there. But it's definitely open to discussion. What isn't open is the idea of eternal ethnic land rights. Nor is the unspoken but commonly-applied rule that whites have no exclusive rights to any place but everyone else owns the place they live in.

(The American example even ignores the complexities of settler/native interactions; it was by no means a one-sided conquest; they worked together, and traded, and involved each other in inter-white and inter-tribal conflicts on both sides for centuries. Whites acted very much like just another collection of tribes on the American political field for a long time; the only long-term diffrence was not moral at all, but simply the fact that they managed to succeed where the Lakota and Iroquois and others tried but failed.)

> If you apply the theory that any conquered land still eternally belongs to whoever it was conquered from, then almost everybody on Earth owes their land to someone else, since everyone is descended from conquerors. This includes the American natives, who warred and took land from each other frequently.

This statement eliminates the necessary nuance.

lmao this entire passage is exactly what I'm talking about. A concrete issue is being muddled by vague generalities, in an attempt to obfuscate what really happened and defend settlers. I mean boy people have been conquering people all the time throughout history so who cares that white people stole land from indigenous people right?


Settlers took over unceded indigenous land. Indigenous Nations are now attempting to re-claim specific tracts of land. This is a real and concrete issue.

> Indigenous Nations in North America were systematically stripped of their lands and titles and worse

Yes, and this was happening before Europeans arrived in North America. Indigenous cultures were at war before Europeans showed up.

Whats more in some cases they saw European colonisation as a potential strategic alliance against their longer term Indigenous foes.

It is a complicated term and it usually only refers to people groups that:

a) Have a long historic and cultural tie to the region they currently occupy,

b) are no longer the dominant culture in that region, and most importantly,

c) consider them self indigenous,

In practice an indigenous people group really only has to fulfill the last criteria. Note also that they don’t have to be the first people group to occupy a region. They don’t even have to have been there before the dominant culture arrived. For example, the Inuit people are believed to have arrived in Greenland after the Norseman in the early 11th century, and they didn’t occupy parts of east Greenland until th 20th century. Today they are arguably the dominant culture in Greenland. However nobody can dispute the fact that they are indigenous people in their land.

I wonder if it's related to Golden Kamuy (manga/anime about ainu) popularity

More likely this is motivated by Tokyo 2020. The trend in ceremonies these days is to tell the history of the country. It would be awkward for Japan's Olympic organizers to make a big show of Ainu being the first people on the islands while the government refuses to acknowledge them. And they couldn't well leave them out with the eyes of the world watching.

F9 in Firefox to toggle reader view, which makes this quite a bit easier to read on wide screens.

And here's the full CNN version which includes a handful of images: https://edition.cnn.com/2019/04/20/asia/japan-ainu-indigenou...

Thanks. The lite version is nice but we'll go with the canonical version (updated from http://lite.cnn.io/en/article/h_db08b33213d74c0d498afe6dc04c...).

How long ago do you have to arrive in a place to be “indigenous”?

I think indigenous colloquially means the people who first used the land (e.g. hunting, farming, seasonal migrations, etc). So it’s not based on length of time, but order of arrival.

It's not so simple. Before the indigenous Inuits migrated to Greenland there were other people groups there. There were the Dorosets and some people even believe the Norse arrived in Greenland a quite a few decades before the Inuit settled. So the Inuit were by no means the first people to use the land they currently occupy, yet nobody will dispute their claims of being indigenous to their lands.

Contrast this also to the Faeroe Islands (another Danish colony in the North Atlantic) whose current people group settled there centuries before the Inuit settled Greenland, were (arguably[1]) the first people there. You’d definitely raise an eyebrow if you’d hear them being called indigenous.

In short. Being the first people group to use the land is neither necessary nor sufficient for being indigenous.


1: The islands might have been settled earlier by Irish monks, however (unlike the modern Norse settlers) they never established settlements that lasted for generations.

I think this is generally true, but it might be more correct to say this: The oldest surviving culture(s) for a particular landmass and / or the existing culture(s) present for the first wave of recorded migration.

We have good evidence that the Mayan and Aztec peoples had groups that preceded them on the land, but they are still indigenous.

I'd consider it a combination of factors between (a) living there first and (b) not having local control of land recognized by colonizers, even in a superficial way (as the British did with India).

Ten thousand years ago seems like a nice, round number to start at.

So the Maori aren't indigenous to New Zealand? The current best guess is that they arrives around 1280[0].

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_New_Zealand

Fair enough, some parts of the world were settled relatively recently, so outliers will exist. I did say it was a number to start at, not an absolute limit.

If the Maori were the first people to settle New Zealand, then yes, they are indigenous, otherwise no, the people they displaced were more likely indigenous.

In either case, the people who came after the Maori will never be indigenous no matter how settled they are.

Depends on how recently the Johnny-come-latelys who wish you weren't there first got there.

That’s a good point. Is an indigenous person still indigenous after traveling thousands of miles? Should an Alaskan native owned company still get preference in billion dollar government contracts when the owner lives in Washington DC and none of the employees are Alaskan? Seems like an incentive system designed to attract people away from the culture rather than preserve it.

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