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Iyomante - イヨマンテ

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This painting was made Circa1870 by a Japanese Artist. The subject matter is Iyomante, a day-long ritual of returning the Bear God to Kamuy Mosir (Land of the Gods) with gifts of millet cakes, wine, fine cloth, and other offerings. The Bear God of the Ainu people was often simply called Kamuy, or if He had a particular mood he was in, they would add something descriptive of that mood. An example is Wen-Kamuy, used to describe an angry Bear God who had eaten people. In Iyomante, a lone bear cub is found in the forest. He is brought back to the village and is treated like a member of the host family. When he comes of age 4-5 years later, he is released from his corporeal form to return to the Land of the Gods with his gifts. It is the hope of the Ainu that He will relate his good time to the other Gods and spirits, who will also trade flesh and fur for gifts from the humans.
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I'm not certain that I should impose myself upon the Eastern Band community. I am mostly European and have gotten weird looks from people when I go there. But there was a guy dancing on the street. I didn't have any money to give him, so I gave him a wad of tsalugvyali. That's "Old Tobacco". At first he said, "what's this?" And when I explained what it was, he got a little nostalgic. Said his grandfather used to grow it. Then I asked if he had heard of the Hobbs family that would have left in 1920. He thought a minute and then told me he remembered a story about them and said they used to live in Big Cove (a remote area of Quallah Boundary reservation that is also home to famous potter Amanda Swimmer). We could not go there in our car and it was about time for us to leave. I regret not taking him up on his offer to go there and find out more. But we couldn't stay another day. One of these days, I'll go back alone and explore and find out more. I'm not eligible to be a member of the tribe because of blood quantum requirements. I could join the Oklahoma Cherokee, but there are a lot of problems there, where the elders are not taken care of and the council tried to kick out the Freemen. I just can't get behind that. I've also met a lot of snotty yonega that are card carrying members of the Oklahoma Cherokee. They like to take out the card and show people, and then can't recount a single time they have done anything for the community, nor do they know the history or anything. All it is to them is a talking point or an oddity. It frustrates me greatly.


I think you're the generation that is taking up the mantle of traditions. That's what's important. For many, being indigenous was, and still is, very hard. Like you say, in the South in those years it could have been harder. That's also why people, like Supaman, etc., are so important. Their ability to revive tradition through modern music...getting the message to the younger people. The Blackfeet elders here are teaching the younger generation their language. Fortunately, there are a handful left who remember. I believe the Flathead people on the other side of the Rockies, do the same.

It's a small small world! I say this because just last March, during our Western Art Heritage week in Great Falls, Supaman performed at our venue. David and I share a room with a friend. Our room is positioned so we could watch his performance. I'd never heard of him but became an instant fan. His spirit is so gentle, strong and contagious. I can see how he reinvigorates the old ways. I took pics and will share a couple privately with you.

Apparently we're on the same page with some of this music. Another thing in this very small son lives in Salt Lake City and in October attended a concert by the HU. He wanted me to come down there to go with him but to my great regret I couldn't.

And, yes, I've watched the video with DJ Shub. Great stuff, eh? I've got Khuleg Baatar saved to watch later. Thank you!


Unfortunately, my great grandfather Charles who was Eastern Band Cherokee did not pass on any real traditions. It is likely that he didn't really know much of them, and what he did know about he didn't practice. His was an existence of trying to fit in in the South in the 20s and 30s. His parents definitely knew more, being that they were born and raised on the rez, but who knows what kind of things forced them to leave and try for a new life in Kingsport TN?

I already had the song Wolf Totem by The Hu, but the song Hassakh is new to me. I really like the song Khuleg Baatar by Ethnic Zorigoo and Tatar Zaya. I think you will immediately see similarities with Indian music.

Speaking of American Indian Music... I really like:
Why by Supaman
Indomitable by DJ Shub


I didn't know about frogs as a no-no with the Quebecois people.  My sister-in-law is Navajo.  In her culture Owls are a terrible omen but in other nations they are revered.  My paternal great-great grandmother was Onondaga of the Iroquois (S. Ontario).  Though I'm far removed in line (the 5th Generation) I remember my grandmother and how she carried the "ways," her mysterious connection capturing me.  She had a formidable and wise spirit.  My mother was very religious at the time and didn't like me spending too much time with Grandma, knowing her influence on me, but Grandma had ways to connect with me. I wish I could remember her personal prose she recited.  I was too young but I remember her cadence, the swirl of mists and spirit.  Owls, snakes, etc. were very special to her.  

I understand "hereditary shame" but I do believe we have ways to rectify.  You do it with your deep connections.  It doesn't have to be overt.  You have a strong spirit and a very pure heart - you project it powerfully without having to have a society (though I sure understand your wish to have one).  Your Eastern Woodland heredity carries the forest, waters, creatures - all creations - in a vibrant swirl - the Circle.  You are connecting them with other powerful original people from around the world.  The Spirit doesn't know boundaries or limitations.  You have it all in your sensitive spiritual "fingertips."

Thank you for telling me about the Sky God Tengri and the blue-scarfed horses.  I didn't know about that but, oh my, you triggered images... so many images.  I'm going to add a u-tube video here.  It's a Mongolian group with their modern take on their ancient heritage, largely the Temujin (Genghis Khan) connection and the wild forces of their land.  It has a wonderful rhythm, for me at least.  When I first saw it I was reminded of contemporary Native American musicians who also translate their ancestry into modern translations.  Of course, there are many traditional u-tube videos that are wonderful. You may or may not relate to this.  Scroll down to HU: Wolf Totem:

Another with traditional music. Nancy may like this one.  I love it. Scroll to Hassak - Құрманғазы:


Yeah, It's complicated for sure. You had no way of knowing and I don't blame you at all. But I discovered the hard way that Quebecois people dislike any mention of frogs. It's just one of those things. I'm not easily offended except when my traumas are brought up. Through that lens, I understand how they feel to some degree. Not the systemic racism or genocide, but the very personal side of it I understand. I also have a hereditary shame for my family's conduct in Prince Phillip's War. I do my best to champion (within my ability) the rights and dignity of indigenous peoples as a means of making reparations. I would like to start a society for that purpose, but I don't have the individual means to do so. I do see all creatures as family, we all come from a single source.

The part about Ghost Dogs is interesting, I have never heard of that. But there are similar practices in Mongolia in regard to horses. There are certain feral horses which are not to be ridden, and have a blue scarf tied around their neck to indicate that they belong to the Mongolian Sky God Tengri. They are typically set free to carry the spirits of the ancestors or of fallen warriors.


Well, I walked into that one. :) Let's just say that my big boy is my Brother as are all of the creatures around here - Brothers and Sisters. Depends on the culture how dogs are considered. The stray dogs in the Blackfoot community north of here are called Ghost Dogs. Fed by everyone because it's believed they carry the spirits of the ancestors. My boy came from the Ghost Dog community and I think about that often, when he looks at me. Horses were called dogs for lack of understanding what they were when they first appeared with the Conquistadors. And "Dog" is in many indigenous names, ie., Crow Dog, etc. Dog Soldiers were the highest and most respected - the honor of being mounted guardians and willing to sacrifice themselves for helpless tribal members. Wolves and other canines are powerful Spirits. But, I guess it depends on the context. I remember a few jokes told me by some Native friends who boasted of their red skin vs. white man's skin. But those are too ribald to tell here (or in any good company)! ;)


We are very fortunate to have you Ryan. Thanks for the website I will definitely check it out. Hope you are feeling better today.


I'm not that knowledgeable. I just watch the NHK sometimes. They used to have a show on saturdays that would teach you about Ainu language and culture. Unfortunately, it hasn't been translated into English. So you kind of have to be able to understand Japanese. In fact to find it, you have to be able to type in Japanese. Fortunately, you have me. Here is a piece on Ainu people fighting to have the remains of their ancestors returned. If that sounds very familiar, it's because Indians are fighting for the same thing.


Love this painting Ryan and all of your very knowledgeable information about it. TFP


Ahh... That is unfortunately a common and cruel joke in Japan. The Ainu people are often conflated with dogs in older art and media. This is because the Japanese word for dog is inu and an Ainu legend says that the first people were suckled by wolves. Instead of pronouncing the a at the beginning, they got called inu. It's a bit of an open wound for them. It is exactly like calling indians something like red skins. I know you mean well, just letting you know so you don't tell an Ainu person that.


I knew of the ceremony but not its name so thank you, Ryan. This is a wonderful painting. I love that the name would alter, depending on Bear's mood. My 120 pound dog (almost bear size) is named Ainu - his face somehow triggered the images of masks and my appreciation of the Ainu culture. :)


@moro4 @MaKai

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