January 05, 2010

Breaking New Ground

Reviving ancient relationships between the sea and the canoe, the Burke Museum recently hosted for the first time ever a delegation of indigenous Ainu guests from Japan as part of a grant-funded community collaboration between NW Coast Native American tribes, the Burke Museum, and the Hokkaido Ainu Association of Japan. Lisa Marie Oliver of the Quinault Indian Nation participated in the week-long Ainu visit and had wonderful news to share:

“The Ainu Delegation's first visit to Seattle was a great experience had by all. Each visit to tribal museums and cultural centers opened new dialogues and revealed shared experiences. It was truly an unforgettable and life changing experience for all involved. Many laughs were had and hugs were never in short supply. Although tears were sometimes shed during painful discussions by tribal members and the Ainu delegation, the bond that was formed between them because of these shared experiences can never be broken.”

“Many tribal members now consider the Ainu their relatives; what a wonderful, powerful, and beautiful sentiment! Many involved learned so much from the Ainu delegation and in return they learned that they are not alone in their struggles for political, social, and economic freedom. The wounds that were so visible when discussing painful histories (on both sides) may never fully heal but with an understanding of each other and the knowledge of knowing the Ainu are not alone in their fight to retain their culture, language, and land may help with the pain. I will never forget the beautiful people I've met and the amazing experience we all shared during these 9 days. An ocean may separate our homelands, but our spirits will forever be walking side by side.”
- Lisa Marie Oliver, Quinault Indian Nation

Note: The Museums & Communities Collaboration Abroad (MCCA) is a program of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the US Department of State in partnership with the American Association of Museums (AAM).