Indigenous Peoples Movement: Okinawans (Ryukyuans)

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January 25, 2013
Indigenous Peoples Movement: Okinawans (Ryukyuans)
I decided to do my report on the Indigenous Peoples of Okinawa because I am full Okinawan and I am very interested in my people! Okinawans, also known as Ryukyuans live in the Ryukyu islands also known as the Okinawa Island and it is the largest and most populated island of the chain. Although considered by the Japanese as a speaking a dialect, the Okinawans speak separate languages such as Okinawa, also known as Uchinaguchi and has less than a million speakers.

After the 14th century, the Okinawan Kingdom became a branch of the Emperor of China and remained independent. This lasted for almost three centuries, until 1609 when the Japanese Tokugawa shogunate claimed them. The Okinawan island was never fully included in Japan until its formal annexation in 1879 by the Meiji government. After World War II, they were occupied by the United States who took control of them until the island’s 1972 reversion to Japan.

The US still maintains a big amount of Okinawa, with their military bases taking up twenty percent of all land on the island. The loss of such a large proportion of agricultural land was and continues to be one of the main complaints of the Okinawans against Japanese authorities. The land is technically leased, with the local landowners receiving payments for it from the Japanese government. However, Okinawans have no choice in this matter since this leasing arrangement is “forced upon them by national legislation, the Special Measures Law for US Military Bases, with the governor of Okinawa designated as the proxy signatory to the leases which permits the continued use of the Okinawans’ land by US forces.” In 1996, the governor of Okinawa refused in the 1990’s to sign the lease agreement on behalf of local owners who did not want to renew the leases.

Japan’s Supreme Court proceeded to overrule the governor’s refusal to renew the leases, and allowed renewal of the lease of land...
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