Some Ainu continue pushing for land and fishing rights . . .
Hatakeyama Satoshi, a 77-year old Indigenous Ainu man and director of the Monbetsu Ainu Association in Japan, is facing a criminal complaint from the Hokkaido prefectural government for catching salmon for use in a traditional Ainu ceremony without a fishing license. Hatakeyama told the police he has done nothing wrong, since the government has recognized the Ainu as Indigenous and that salmon fishing was a staple for his ancestors. Official statistics estimate the Ainu population to be around 20,000, but unofficial estimates are as high as 100,000.
Evolving laws and rights . . .
Before Japan hosted the G8 summit in Hokkaido in 2008, the Japanese Diet (legislature) unanimously recognized the Ainu as Indigenous people. The government spent the next decade studying the implications of that decision and working on a new set of laws and policies. The Act on Promoting Measures to Realize a Society in which the Pride of the Ainu People is Respected, or the Ainu Promotion Act, for short, was promulgated in April 2019, and focuses on promoting Ainu culture, industry, and tourism. It makes no mention of political or land rights or making an official apology.
Similarities, exchanges mark Ainu-Canadian Indigenous relations . . .
While Canada celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2017, Hokkaido marked the 150th anniversary of the island’s naming and incorporation into Japan this year. There have been several exchanges between Ainu and First Nations, Meitis, and Inuit in both Canada and Japan since 1978. This has been part of a broader engagement by Indigenous communities in Canada with the Asia Pacific, which is home to about 70 per cent of the world’s Indigenous population, estimated to be as high as 350 million people. But national contexts often give rise to different ways in which Indigenous rights, culture, and identity are expressed, and Indigenous peoples in both Canada and Japan continue to contend with different paths to the reclamation of their rights.
- Citizens Alliance for the Examination of Ainu Policy: (Website statement, in Japanese)
- The Mainichi: Ainu association director objects to criminal accusations over salmon fishing
- University of British Columbia: Hokkaidō 150: Settler colonialism and Indigeneity in modern Japan and beyond (podcasts)