The Ezo Indians

Long, long ago, in a land far away, lived an indigenous people. These people lived simple lives, living off the land and taking from nature only what they needed. The land was great and it was plentiful and good. But, even though during the warm summer, there was always enough to eat — the cold of the winter lead to a very harsh life for these simple folks.

There were many different tribes of these Indians, all who spoke different dialects and languages. They rarely intermingled and basically left each other alone as long as one tribe did not try to take the land of another. Some were hunters and farmers; some were fishers and farmers. But the one thing that held them together, in a sort of cultural identity, was the color of their skin.

For hundreds of years, some say even for perhaps thousands of years, these people continued with their simple ways while the rest of the world passed them by. That is, until the day the invaders came.

At first the invaders were greeted with suspicion and awe. But soon, through a make-shift dialogue, they began to trade with the foreigners and to share the wealth of the land. Through this early trade and attempts at communication, a sort of a “bond of trust” was built between the Indians and the newcomers. The native word for the newcomers, it is remembered, was “Wajin." The Wajin came from across the sea. They brought with them new technology and a common language. They also brought disease.

Some say that the indigenous native people had first migrated to this land over 10,000 years ago from a long trek from Asia — when the lands still connected where the oceans stand today. I, for one, find this quite an obvious theory as when I see a picture of one today, especially a picture of an elder, they look exactly the same when compared with the indigenous peoples from the old country.

Sometime, around the 7th century, many of these Indian tribes began making earthenware and creating utensils for their daily needs. They also created icons to worship their Gods. They would celebrate, for example, the killing of a bear and the gift from God that the bears’ meat and fur gave them. Nothing was wasted. When the newcomers came, the Indians would trade furs, materials for clothing, foxtail millet, and buckwheat for iron tools such as knives and other items from the New World.

When the first foreign settlers began to arrive, they began to divvy up the native people’s lands amongst themselves. This led to a huge stress and strain on the relationship between the indigenous Indians and the newcomers.

Antagonism grew between them until one day, their peaceful co-existence was destroyed, and war broke out. The Indians, with their poor technology — as well as not being very united from the start — were defeated one by one as the settlers began to take over their land.

By the 16th century, the die was cast: The newcomers were to be the rulers of this land. Even though many wars would be fought between the invaders and the indigenous peoples over the next 200 years, the tide of immigration into this land from across the seas, was too great to be stopped — and the Indians were finally defeated.

Who knows how history would have changed and the world would have been different today had the Indians won those wars and retained their land. Perhaps there never would have been a World War I or II; maybe man would have never landed on the moon. Or perhaps we would have never witnessed all the other technological achievements made over the last 200 years. One can only wonder.

In many ways, even now, those Indians have much to teach those of us living in our modern society today about getting along with each other and living at one with nature. For now, we have constant war and the stress and strains of daily life to contend with. Oh, we can only dream about how it must have been to live peaceful lives, living off the land.

But, time marches on and history cannot be changed. So one can only wonder how the world would have been different today if those native Indians had not been slaughtered and defeated in war; the native Indians from a land called Ezo. A land we call today, Hokkaido: the most northern of the 4 main islands of Japan.