The Japanese Society of Cultural Anthropology has apologized and expressed its regret over its past research approach when dealing with the Ainu people, an indigenous group in the country.

It marks the first time that an academic society in Japan or abroad has apologized to the Ainu people, according to the Ainu Association of Hokkaido, a group of Ainu people working to promote their collective rights.

“That it has issued a sincere statement and apology is a step toward removing the distrust of academia,” a spokesperson for the association said.