A Proposal from Aotearoa, the Land of the Long White Cloud 
About the Aotearoa-Ainumosir Exchange Programme

Akemi Shimada- Organizing Committee Chair
Aotearoa, the Maori word for New Zealand, means the land of the long white cloud. The Ainu people have received a wonderful proposal from Te Ururoa Flavell , an indigenous Maori member of the New Zealand Parliament to visit the land of the white cloud. He has suggested that Ainu people visit New Zealand for 4-6 weeks to study the variety of Maori endeavors. Through this program we hope to bring Aotearoa and Ainu Mosir together in solidarity.

As a representative of the Maori Party, New Zealand MP Flavell took part in the inauguration of the Ainu Party in January this year. While his stay was only one week, he met with Utari (fellow Ainu) active in Hokkaido and Tokyo, and gained knowledge of some aspects of the Ainu situation. After seeing with his own eyes Utari working to revitalize the Ainu Language, pass on Ainu culture to future generations, and improve the current state of affairs, he returned to his country with a strong desire to reach out to his fellow indigenous Ainu brothers and sisters. Not one week passed when his invitation for Ainu to participate in a program in his country reached us. We already feel so warmly welcomed into his country.
In 2009, I represented WIN-Ainu in an ambassador program for leader training that took place in New Zealand. The program was jointly organized by Americans for Indian Opportunity and its sister organization, the Advancement of Maori Opportunity (AIO/AMO) . Through this program, I learned to fully embrace my Ainu identity and the warm-heartedness of Maori people I met there has been a huge support for my current work in the Ainu community. I truly believe that the exchange program that MP Flavell has proposed will be extremely worthwhile for utari. While the Maori only compose 15% of the population of New Zealand, they have a large influence on New Zealand society overall. There is so much that we can learn from their history, culture, and politics.

In order to carry out this program, we have to deal with an array of issues such as the raising of funds. We have formed an executive committee of people with the ambition to overcome these obstacles so that we can send a delegation to New Zealand for this program- the Executive for the Aotearoa-Ainumosir Exchange Programme (AEEP). It has been created independently and is composed of not only utari who had the wonderful opportunity to meet MP Flavell, but also those who have the drive to make this program a success.

Seeing with our own eyes the endeavors of our indigenous Maori brothers and sisters, coming in contact with their passion, touching it with our own hands, feeling it with all of our senses, will surely inspire us to come to terms with our sense of Ainu identity which some of us are still grasping for in the dark. I sincerely hope that this exchange will give us an opportunity to become aware, to see with brand new eyes, the deepness of the traditions that our tipuna (Maori word meaning ancestor(s)) have left for us.

Finally, to those who hold respect for and hold great aspirations for the Ainu community, I hope that we can work together to allow as many utari as possible to join in on this program in Aoteaora.

* For program details (purpose, contents, application details, organizing committee information, please click on the links on the left).