Ainu: Spirit of a Northern People
Chise: The Ainu House
The traditional center of Ainu life was the house or "chise." Its characteristic plan of one long room with an entrance area and central hearth reflected organization around spirituality and domestic activities. Daily activities for women included cooking, gardening, fishing, gathering edible or medicinal plants and the making of intricately designed clothing. Men hunted, fished and carved. Both men and women could be shamans.
(1) Room QTVR
(6) Objects w/captions – Stills
1. Floor Plan Drawing
The Ainu Museum at Shiraoi
2. Cloth Mittens
Romyn Hitchcock col. 1888, Piratori, Hokkaido
3. Nipopo Dolls
Kan Wada Collection
4. Child's Salmon Skin Coat
M. Todd col. 1896, Esashi, Hokkaido
5. Kimono and Embroidered Headband
R. Hitchcock, col. 1888, Tsuishikari, Hokkaido
6. Ainu Robe
Collected by Frederick Starr, Porosaru, 1904.
1. Commentary on Shamanism by Curator William Fitzhugh
"The Ainu have a spiritual religion that includes shamanism and many rituals and procedures that are rather similar to the natives of Siberia and also to North America. In this case we see some shaman's drums and small wooden figurines that are similar to Siberian idols, and ritual materials used to help you if you are sick or to change the weather or to make things go better for your family. Shamans were among the most important people in the Siberian Ainu and Sakhalin Ainu populations and wore belts that were very similar to the Siberian shaman's belts. But by the time of the early historical period, the last couple of centuries in Hokkaido, shamanism had disappeared and had changed largely into curing ceremonies that were done by women, without a lot of the ritual known in Siberian shamanism."
2. Commentary on Chise by Curator William Fitzhugh
"When we went to the Ainu with a proposal to do an exhibit at the Smithsonian on Ainu culture the one thing that they insisted must be in that exhibit was their chise - their house which we've reconstructed here through Mr. Nomotos' beautiful artistry. Everything in this show basically comes from this setting, the traditional Ainu house, a grass house made of wooden structures,grass mat floors and a hearth, a simple rectangular hearth in the center. Here you find all of the Ainu material culture, the materials for making clothing, men's fishing and hunting equipment. All these activities are centered here, around the fireplace where Fuchi, the god of the fire, the goddess of the fire, dwelled and blessed everyone."
C3. Commentary on Elm Bark Robe by Curator Chisato Dubreuil
"This kind of robe was called attush. It is made with elm tree bark. Basically they peel the elm bark and they soak (it) in a hot spring and then kind of make it really soft, and make it into yarn, and then weave it. It takes a lot of time. I think one garment takes one year to make."
4. Commentary on Clothing by Curator William Fitzhugh
"This room is devoted to primarily Ainu clothing, traditional Ainu clothing of the 18th, 19th, early 20th century. Much of it made with animal materials like fish hide or fish skin, but also with elm bark and materials processed from fibers of elm trees or thistle plants and other materials. Ainu women used a loom and they wove beautiful materials and their embroidery of these materials make some of the most spectacular designs of native clothing anywhere in the world."
|Plain Text Opening | About the Exhibit | Map | Resources | Acknowledgements|
|Room 1 | Room 2 | Room 3 | Room 4 | Room 5 | Room 6 | Room 7|
|Arctic Studies Home|