UW News

May 20, 2010

Bearers of cultural history: Burke Museum hosts two Ainu interns from Hokkaido, Japan

The Burke Museum is hosting two museum interns from Japan who are participating in a first-ever cultural exchange between the indigenous Ainu of Japan and Native American communities in Washington state.

The two Ainu interns, Akira Kikuchi, 24, and Masashi Kawakami, 27, arrived in Seattle on April 13 and will stay in the United States through July to learn museum curatorial skills that they can take home and share with the Ainu community.

In 2008 the Ainu were formally recognized by Japan’s government as the nation’s “first peoples.” Kikuchi and Kawakami are among the first Ainu people to travel to the U.S. to learn about museum studies.

While in Seattle, Kikuchi and Kawakami will spend their time developing an educational kit about Ainu heritage that will be available for use by Washington state educators through the Burke Museum’s “Burke Box” program. The two interns will also curate a small exhibit of Ainu cultural artifacts purchased by and gifted to the Burke Museum. Finally, Kikuchi and Kawakami will contribute to a documentary film about Ainu culture that is being produced through the Native Voices film program at the UW.

In fall 2009, the Burke Museum began a yearlong cultural exchange between the Ainu Association of Hokkaido and six tribal groups in Washington: The Duwamish Tribe, The Makah Nation, The Suquamish Tribe, The Squaxin Island Tribe, The Tulalip Tribes, and The House of Welcome Long House at Evergreen State College.

The exchange will culminate with a final visit to the U.S. by eight members of the Ainu community in July, where they will join the interns in participating in the annual Tribal Canoe Journey to Neah Bay with dozens of other tribes.

This exchange is supported by a grant from Museums & Communities Collaboration Abroad, a program of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State in partnership with the American Association of Museums.