3rd Oral Argument March 4, 2021 Thursday 2:00PM
Statement of Opinion of Mr. Hiroki Nagane (Chairman, Raporo Ainu Nation)
Written Statement of Opinion:
Chairman of Raporo Ainu Nation, Hiroki Nagane
I am currently the representative of the Raporo Ainu Nation. The Raporo Ainu Nation was originally named the Urahoro Ainu Association, and was represented by Mr. Masaki Sashima for many years.
In 2020, we changed our organization's name to the Raporo Ainu Nation, in order to strongly express our feelings as an organization seeking to implement the return of 102 of our ancestors' remains that were stolen from Urahoro town and carried away to Hokkaido University and Tokyo University, along with seeking the recognition of our right to catch salmon.
My father, Kiichirō, was a long-time member of the Urahoro Ainu Association—or the Urahoro Utari Association, as it used to be called.
My paternal grandmother, Kiyono, came from the kotan of Shiroto (or Chirotto in the Ainu language) in Makubetsu. My paternal grandfather, Genjirō, was Tokachibuto Ainu.
Although I have always known on some level that I am Ainu, that does not mean I have always lived with a particular consciousness of what it means to be Ainu.
When my grandmother Kiyono passed away more than ten years ago in Atsunai, she had many photographs among her belongings. These photographs depicted women with tattooing around their mouths, as was common among married Ainu women. Some of these photographs also had an Ainu word, "Fuci," written on the flip side.
While looking at Kiyono's photographs, my mother told me many things about my grandmother, and I gradually began to develop an interest in the Ainu.
I graduated high school, and spent the next few years working as a helper on a dairy farm in Sarabetsu. My uncle, who was a fisherman in Atsunai, asked "why don't you come help me?", so I returned to Atsunai and now I am a fisherman.
I work as a member of the fixed-net fishers' cooperative, led by Mr. Masaki Sashima, and I also work with my uncle catching crabs, shishamo (smelt), whelk, and the like.
When I became a fisherman, I learned that all fishermen carry a small knife at their lower back, called a makiri. A makiri's scabbard is usually carved, so I carved Ainu designs into my own and, even today, I use it and hang it on my belt whenever I go fishing.
It was through the process of repatriating our ancestors' remains that I came to be strongly conscious of being Ainu. When I learned the details of how our ancestor's remains were exhumed and taken away by university professors, my first response was a strong resentment of these heartless acts.
Their return secured, our ancestors' remains were welcomed home to the cemetery in Urahoro, and we all made the preparations for the reburial and the ceremonies together. As we felled thin willow trees to shave into inau and practiced for the kamuynomi and icarpa ceremonies, I gradually came to reflect on the long history, culture, and traditions of the Ainu. As a result, I became more strongly self-aware that I am Ainu, and how amazing it is to live as Ainu.
Last year, all of us members built a traditional Ainu dugout canoe and, using that canoe, caught more than 160 salmon from the Urahorotokachi River. As fishermen, we catch salmon from the ocean, but as Ainu, we catch salmon from the river as our ancestors did, which feels completely different.
Catching salmon in the river is the essence of Ainu culture itself, and I felt proud to catch salmon as an Ainu. Catching salmon, praying to the gods, and performing the kamuynomi ceremony as my ancestors did, my body trembled with the feeling that "I am Ainu."
In order to live with pride as Ainu—which is different than for Wajin—we absolutely need the right to catch salmon.
Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the conservation of salmon stocks. Some years ago, there was a severe rainstorm. The increasing volume of the river during the storm caused almost all of the juvenile salmon fry that had been released into the river to be washed away. However, even after the heavy rain, naturally spawned salmon fry could still be seen in the river.
At a glance, you can tell the difference between a salmon fry that has been released and one that has spawned naturally, because of the difference in size. At that time, I also found that, as I predicted, the survival rate of naturally spawned fry was higher. From that point on, I began to wonder whether the proliferation of the commercial hatchery industry has really been good for salmon.
While I continue to study this, I would like to think about how Raporo Ainu Nation can promote the conservation of salmon stocks.
 Ainu language word, used to refer to female elders.
 Ainu language word, used to refer to shaved wooden sticks used in Ainu ceremonies.
Translated from Hokudai Kaiji Bunsho Kenkyuukai Newsletter No.26
Translated by Michael J. Ioannides February 1, 2022