:: To Our Readers ::

In May 2010, while "The Call of the Living Earth: Photographs of Australian Aborigines by Minoru Hokari" was on exhibit at the Hokkaido Museum of Northern Peoples, we were contacted by someone who had come across phrases similar to those in Radical Oral History: Historical Practice of Indigenous Australians in a serialized novel published in a regional newspaper. The chapter in question appeared starting May 11; we sent the newspaper an inquiry, dated May 25, regarding these "similar expressions."


In the novel, not only does the name of an Aborigine elder closely resemble "Jimmy Mangayarri," the name of Hokari's mentor, but numerous descriptions and analyses developed in Radical Oral History including, for example, the concept that for Aboriginal peoples their country is one vast home — also appear in slightly modified form. Our own comparison of the two texts yielded more than fifteen instances of such similarities.


We were aware that fictional works often borrow from nonfiction and that researchers often have no recourse to redress. Given that this case does not involve "plagiarism" per se, for the passages were not copied verbatim, there was some hesitation in defining it as a case of copyright infringement.


As we knew that no list of references would be published until the serialized novel ended, as we received no response from the newspaper, and as we wanted to verify whether the author — who had written a positive review of Radical Oral History — intended to list it among its references, we wrote to the three-newspaper syndicate that controlled the serialized novel's publication, as well as the author's agency, requesting that the book be "listed as a reference source."


Subsequently, we received responses from both stating that it had been their intention from the very beginning to list Radical Oral History as a reference, among other sources, when the novel was published in book form, in the author's essay to be published in the newspapers following the serial, and on the website as well. In the end, however, the book was not mentioned in the author's essay, although it was listed among numerous references in the novel's final installation.


Regardless of whether it qualifies as copyright infringement, we feel that the issue here is one of ethics or of morality.


Hokari passed away a few days after finalizing the manuscript for Radical Oral History. The arguments and analyses he presents in the book are based on the knowledge that "Old Jimmy" and other Gurindji elders imparted to him precisely because they believed that he would communicate their history widely to white Australians, the Japanese and global audiences.


The lament that the Gurindji people consistently articulate through Hokari and his book Radical Oral History is this: Why didn't the white settlers ask us for permission to live in the Aboriginal lands? If only they had asked us for permission, we would have said, "Mate, let us live together."

 

If the author of the serialized novel, who himself had praised Radical Oral History in his review, had understood the Gurindji people's demand on a deeply personal level, it should have been clear that he should contact the late Hokari's family in advance. If he had written to say, "I would like to use Radical Oral History as a reference and include these phrases," we would have been happy to say yes, as with the Indigenous Australians.

 

Over the years the Gurindji people had lamented that no matter how many researchers they accepted into their community, the fruits of their fieldwork remained in Camberra and the Gurindji saw none of it. Understanding this, Hokari went so far as to agree to a contract promising to submit all of his research findings to the Gurindji community in Daguragu. He was also incensed by other researchers who, having been allowed to attend religious ceremonies after promising to respect their secret nature, had no qualms revealing the proceedings or publishing photographs. He recounts in Radical Oral History how, before turning in his doctoral thesis to the university, he first returned to the community to obtain permission from the Gurindji elders and others.

 

We have received several permissions requests in the past, such as when the magazine Kaze no Tabibito [Traveler of the Wind] asked to reprint Chapter 2 of Radical Oral History, and when an Australian scholar wanted to write a paper about Hokari's contribution to the study of Aboriginal history. And we have responded to every request in good faith. Whether the work in question is fiction, as in a novel, or nonfiction, as in an academic treatise, showing respect for the person engaged in creative or scholarly endeavors and for the work that this person has produced entails requesting permission in advance. To believe that it is unnecessary to obtain "permission" because there is no legal obligation is neither ethical nor moral; nor does it express sufficient respect for members of Hokari's family, who are continuing the work of ensuring that this young scholar's research and insights reach as many people as possible.

 

Given the above developments, we have decided to declare that no part of the books or other works authored by Minoru Hokari, the publications issued by "Being Connected with HOKARI MINORU" or the text, photographs, images, videos or other content posted on its website may be reproduced, reprinted or adapted in any form without prior written permission. Thank you for your understanding.

 

To use Hokari's works without permission, regardless of the intended purpose, is equivalent to using the Gurindji people's and other Indigenous Australians' historical assets without permission.

 

January 2012
Yuki Hokari
Being Connected with HOKARI MINORU

 

N.B. Ochanomizu Shobo Publishers, the publisher of Radical Oral History: Historical Practice of Indigenous Australians, is not involved in this case in any way.