The traditional cultures of the Ainu of Hokkaido, Japan, and Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest have much in common—both have a rich artistic heritage and a deep belief in the spirit that exists in all of nature. With a strong respect for their environment and a determination to live in harmony with it, the indigenous cultures on both sides of the North Pacific also have much to teach the world today.
In June, 2009, the Garden celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Portland-Sapporo Sister City Association with Parallel Worlds: Art of the Ainu of Hokkaido and Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest, an exhibition of ceremonial robes which explored the parallels between our two regions that go back to ancient times—to the first people who inhabited these lands on both sides of the North Pacific.
The title of the exhibition, Parallel Worlds, refers to the Ainu concept that life consists of two parallel realities—that of the physical world and another unseen, but equally powerful spiritual world. Just as the Ainu of Hokkaido, Japan, so the Tlingit and other Native peoples of the Pacific Northwest lost much of their traditional culture along with their land with the coming of New World settlers. The efforts of both Ainu and Tlingit artists to carry on their traditions today, developing them in new and vital ways, gives hope that the great beauty of these cultures will continue to thrive for generations to come.