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By Mike Rogers

The day the invaders came

When the Old World Met the New, the Result was Tragedy

Mike Rogers was born and raised in the US and moved to Japan in 1984. His first book, Schizophrenic in Japan (iUniverse, 2005), is now on sale

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

There were many different tribes of these Indians, all of whom 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.
Some say that the indigenous native people had first migrated to their lands over 10,000 years ago after 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 pictures of the natives today, especially a picture of an elder, they look exactly the same when compared with the indigenous peoples from the old country.

For hundreds of years, some say even thousands, 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 makeshift 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 kind 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.

Sometime, around the seventh century, many of these Indian tribes began making earthenware and creating utensils for their daily needs. They also created icons for the ceremonial worship of their gods. They would celebrate, for example, the killing of a bear and the gift that the bears’ meat and fur gave them. Nothing was wasted. The Indians would trade furs, materials for clothing, buckwheat and foxtail millet for iron tools, such as knives, 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 strain on the relationship between the 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—and their lack of unity—were defeated one by one as the settlers took over their homes.

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 people over the next 200 years, the tide of immigration from across the seas was too great to be stopped, and the Indians were finally and completely defeated.

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

In many ways, even now, those Indians have much to teach us 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. One can only wonder how the world would have been different if those native Indians had not been slaughtered and defeated in war; the native Indians from a land called Ezo—a land today we call Hokkaido.

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