The Japanese government approved legislation to legally recognize and preserve the cultural practices of the country’s Ainu Indigenous people at an Upper House plenary session Friday.

The legislation, according to Kyodo news agency, aims to preserve the culture of the Ainu people through state-backed financial assistance at central and local levels of government as well as promote the group’s culture and heritage.

The new law will allow the Ainu to observe and maintain traditional practices such as collecting wood from national forests and catching fish in rivers, using time-honored, traditional methods.

Head of the Ainu Association of Hokkaido, Tadashi Kato, pointed out that the new law did not cover ways to improve the living standards of the Ainu people.

According to a 2017 survey conducted by the government of Hokkaido, the percentage of Ainu advancing to universities stood at 33.3 percent, more than 10 points lower than the rest of the population in areas where Ainu live.

In March, Ainu activists launched protests, in Sapporo, Hokkaido, to highlight the inadequacy of the legislation regarding the representation of the Indigenous practices.

The new legislation also moves to introduce a subsidy program for regional revitalization to assist local authorities in implementing projects to promote Ainu culture, industry and tourism.

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