The Ainu, an indigenous group of hunter-gathers, had inhabited most of the northern island called Ainu Mosir (‘the peaceful land of the humans’) or, in Japanese, Ezo (‘the land of the barbarians’), as well as part of Sakhalin and the Kurile Islands, since at least the thirteenth century. By the late 1860s, Ainu Mosir became the site of Japan’s first modern settler colonization. It was renamed Hokkaidō by the Japanese government in 1869 and systematically integrated into the country’s project of launching the cycle of capitalist accumulation. This chapter provides an overview of late nineteenth-century Japanese settler colonialism in Hokkaidō. Beginning in the seventeenth century, the Japanese had established firm control over the Ainu people – as Ezo, the derogatory name given by the Japanese, indicates – by making them work for their profits through fisheries and unequal trade. Understandably, historians tend to underscore continuities in the Ainu’s subordination to the Japanese from the early modern to the modern period, but it is crucial to recognize fundamental shifts in the historical characteristics of the relationship. The new form of subjection that emerged in the modern era deprived the Ainu of their means of sustenance – the land, water and forest – and hunting and gathering way of life. The Japanese in early modern times had neither forcibly separated the Ainu from their natural milieu nor denied their livelihood. And even though their relationship with the Japanese was unequal and their working conditions often deplorable, the Ainu were trading partners and a necessary workforce for the Japanese. In modern times, as this chapter shows, the Ainu became a dispensable – even redundant – population, marking a decisive break from earlier colonial practice. The Japanese government’s systematic expropriation of their means of sustenance and livelihood precipitated the Ainu’s rapid fall into the state of near ‘extinction’.