In the morning of September 1, 2019, two men from the Monbetsu Ainu Association harvested spawning salmon from the local Mobetsu River for use in a Kamuycep-nomi traditional Ainu ceremony to welcome the first fish of the year. Beforehand, when the Association had notified the government of their planned actions, the Division Chief of the local Promotion Bureau demanded that they refrain, insisting that the Association instead first “File an application and get permission from the Governor of Hokkaido Prefecture”. However, the members of the Association disobeyed this order on the grounds of their Indigenous right to freely harvest Kamuycep, salmon. The Hokkaido government subsequently reported these men to the police as poachers, and criminal charges have now been pressed against them.
We are always on the side of the Monbetsu Ainu Association for their courageous acts.
We the Ainu peoples used to be dependent on the resources of nature for our lives. Our ancestors always maintained communion with the Kamuy, the spirits of nature, when making use of woods, plants, deer, salmon and all other things necessary for our lives. Everyday, they lived with gratitude for the blessings of nature. We proudly inherit this tradition from them.
However, one day, huge waves of colonizers from Japan across the sea suddenly began to arrive, to occupy our lands and take our resources, without permission. The Japanese government disregarded us Indigenous people. They took away our land, lives and culture. Even as we were trying to live our lives as usual, the Japanese government stopped and punished those who disobeyed the new regulations. They ignored our Indigenous wisdom and customs. Overwhelmed by the devastating pressure of numbers, many Ainu had no choice but to bow to the Japanese assimilation policy and abandon our traditional lifeways.
In 1984, the Hokkaido Ainu Association asserted the condition of Ainu rights by submitting the document, “Demands for a New Ainu Law” to the Japanese Government. The Japanese Diet has since promulgated two Acts on the Ainu, one on culture, the Ainu Cultural Promotion Act, in 1997, and a second on policies, the Ainu Policy Promotion Act, in 2019. But neither of these Statutes makes any reference to Ainu rights.
Against such a background, we are greatly moved by the actions of the Monbetsu Ainu Association who manifested their Indigenous rights by boldly harvesting kamuycep in plain sight without the permission of the Japanese. We Ainu people are obliged to receive permission only from the Kamuy of water, salmon and great nature.
We hereby call upon the majority who came here to occupy our land without permission and force your regulations upon us: shouldn’t you at least allow us to freely take the resources of the sea, rivers and forests that we need for our lives?
We hereby sanction and declare our support for the demands of the Monbetsu Ainu Association for Indigenous rights, and assert our rights as Indigenous Ainu people.
March 15, 2020
Alliance For the Achievement of Ainu (=Human Beings) Rights
Ko-ichi KAIZAWA, Shizue UKAJI, Shiro KAYANO, Mamoru TAZAWA and OKI