Since 2009, IPinCH has been working with the Hokkaido Ainu Association and Ainu community members in Hokkaido, northern Japan, to address their desire for cultural and intellectual property policies and protocols to protect their heritage.
It was only in 2008 that the Ainu were officially recognized as Japan’s Indigenous population by the government.
A research team consisting of IPinCH Associate Hirofumi Kato (Hokkaido University), Joe Watkins, and George Nicholas have worked since 2009 with Ainu communities and Japanese researchers in Sapporo, Biratori, and Lake Akan to identify community concerns regarding tangible and intangible heritage issues and opportunities. These efforts have been strongly supported by Hokkaido University Center for Ainu and Indigenous Studies (CAIS), an IPinCH partner.
Kato has worked to introduce IPinCH to the Ainu and Japanese research communities and to facilitate information exchange. In this he has been aided by Professor Teruki Tsunemoto, CAIS Director, and Mayumi Okada (an IPinCH Associate), and other CAIS faculty and staff. Tsunemoto attended the 2011 IPinCH Midterm Conference, and presented on “The Recent Development of Ainu Policy in Japan.”
Nicholas and Watkins met twice with Ainu community members in Sapporo and Nibutani in October 2009. They were joined by a larger IPinCH contingent (T.J. Ferguson, Sheila Greer, Diane Strand, and Leigh Kuwanwisiwma) in January 2011 for a symposium at Lake Akan, Hokkaido. Both Strand and Kuwanwisiwma are involved with IPinCH community initiatives (Yukon First Nations and Hopi, respectively).
In November 2013, CAIS and IPinCH sponsored an international symposium on Cultural Tourism and IP in Sapporo, at which Nicholas and Watkins were joined by Carol Ellick, Rachel Giraudo, and David Schaepe. This symposium had a strong focus on corporate social responsibility and provided an opportunity for representatives of municipal governments and industry to meet with the research team and with Ainu community members and leaders.
In November 2015, Kato, Okada, Nicholas and IPinCH Associate Carl-Gosta Ojala participated in the CAIS-funded symposium on The Contribution of Archaeology to Local / Indigenous Communities.
A variety of resources and publications are under development. Several members of the Ainu research team will meet while at the World Archaeological Congress in Kyoto, August 2016, to continue their discussions and planning. The collaboration between Kato, Watkins, and Nicholas will continue after the IPinCH Project formally ends.
Photos: The IPinCH Team at Lake Akan: (from left): Sheila Greer, Hirofumi Kato, Joe Watkins, TJ Ferguson, George Nicholas, Leigh Kuwanwisiwma, Diane Strand; the Japanese delegation visiting Stanley Park in Vancouver; Museum at Nibutani, shaped like a traditional Ainu (photo: G. Nicholas); Ainu carver Toru Kalzawa (photo: R. Giraudo).