The Minidoka National Historic Site remains a place for visitors to learn from the past and pay tribute to Japanese Americans who despite enduring significant hardships and distrust from their fellow Americans helped galvanize our freedoms and liberate our allies abroad. We can never forget the tremendous service those soldiers provided while facing enemies abroad and discrimination at home.
Idaho’s congressional delegation has voiced its support for a commemorative postage stamp proposal that would honor the patriotism of the Japanese Americans who served in the US Army during World War II. The stamp is currently in its final stages under review by U.S. Postmaster General Megan Brennan.
Greetings from the temporary visitor center at Minidoka National Historic Site! This spring was filled with changes at Minidoka, and the National Park Service is now operational at the Herrmann House! They have been kind enough to share their office space with me, so I have been spending quiet, contemplative days working for Friends of Minidoka on site. Every day I spend here raises new questions, builds connections, and allows me to engage with visitors and understand how the history of this site truly touches people of all walks of life. NPS has already set up a temporary exhibit and a bookstore, and has welcomed over a thousand visitors since opening on Memorial Day. Please feel free to swing by and say hi if you are ever in the area!
This year we have been staying busy with educational outreach and research. We have completed our project plan and are moving forward on the Minidoka Intergenerational
Legacy Exhibit, which we received a 2016 JACS grant for. It will be housed permanently at Minidoka. The goal is to complete it in time to be the featured exhibit displayed during the grand opening of the permanent visitor center in early 2019. This exhibit will use art as a lens to explore the experiences and legacies of the Issei, Nisei, and Sansei who were incarcerated at Minidoka during WWII. We are looking for images from Minidoka to be used for research and potentially in the exhibition. If you would like to donate images or artwork from or about camp, please contact me. Donations can include the actual donation of pieces or just allowing us to take a high-resolution scan so you can keep the originals.
We have also been assisting North Shore Productions in the production of the park’s orientation film to be shown in the permanent visitor center. We assisted in introducing the producers to members of the community to have their stories featured in the film. Filming has taken place so far in Portland, Seattle, Bainbridge Island, and the pilgrimage, featuring individuals from these communities as well as from Alaska. This fall we will be completing archival research to uncover new resources for use in the film in Alaska, Chicago, and the National Archives. If any of you are near these locations and would like to connect while we are there, we look forward to hearing from you.
There has been turnover in the NPS at Minidoka, and I hope you’ll join me in thanking Judy Geniac for her service as Superintendent and Carol Ash for her service as Chief of Interpretation and Education and congratulating them each on their retirements. We also welcome Wade Vagias and our long time friend Hanako Wakatsuki as they step in to fill
We are excited to welcome three new board members to the Friends of Minidoka. Carol Ash, former Chief of Interpretation and Education for Minidoka NHS is joining the board, as well as Debbie Dane, the former Executive Director for the Southern Idaho Tourism Board, and Andy Dunn, who studies Minidoka as a graduate student at Idaho State University and was instrumental in the organization of Field-In-A-Day. Carol, Debbie, and Andy are all based in Southern Idaho and we look forward to working with them to further our reach in the local community and accomplish great things. Welcome!
A quick note on the Minidoka Interlude: we are currently sold out of all copies of our last press but we are in the process of publishing another run. Many of you have contacted me to reserve a copy of the Interlude when it becomes available, and I hope you feel free to continue to do so. We will have an update for you very soon!
Thanks for being a friend,
Thanks to all of you, 2016 has been a year of immense progress for the Friends of Minidoka and Minidoka National Historic Site.
In May, for the first time in the history of the site, we created a volunteer force of 200 people and completed a historic reconstruction project in a day. The Field-In-ADay was not only a feat of energy, resources, people, and organizations coming together; it brought many local residents to Minidoka for the first time and introduced them to the critical history of the site. It will continue to teach visitors about life in camp and especially the gaman spirit. As educators, we have helped with more site tours, field trips, and outreach requests than ever before. We have introduced learners of all ages to the Minidoka story, and connected with first time and returning donors, volunteers, and visitors. As advocates, we asked congress to continue to support these important sites and to work with us in future endeavors. We hosted a successful Minidoka Civil Liberties Symposium examining historic and current mass incarceration and how it threatens civil liberties. We wrote letters to the Twin Falls mayor and city council asking them to be steadfast in protecting our Muslim and refugee neighbors and friends.
We continue to collaborate with our friends with common missions and to connect with new partners in Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and beyond. We are active members of the all-camps consortium, building coalitions with our fellow Japanese American advocacy groups to preserve the sites, stories, and legacy of the Japanese American incarceration. We are currently engaged in the design process for the new Visitor Center and the park film, which are on track for completion in 2018. We also continue to work with the NPS to increase opportunities for visitors to understand the site, including through our own permanent legacy exhibit.
As we look to 2017, we are filled with a sense of purpose more urgent than ever. As we near the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066 and the unconstitutional forced relocation of 120,000 Japanese legal residents and American citizens of Japanese descent, our nation has become divided and violence of word and action is being used as a response. Many are being targeted based on their race, religion, and sexual orientation. We have the responsibility to organize, speak out, and fight to protect the civil liberties of all Americans. After all, we have seen how fragile they can be. Let’s make 2017 the year that Japanese Americans and their friends stood up and said, we will not let this happen again. Minidoka National Historic Site is a place that inspires empathy, courage, diversity, compassion, and active democracy. It has the power to tell the story of a nation divided by prejudice and hysteria. As we embark to make 2017 our most impactful year yet, we ask that you consider giving your time, energy, stories, and photographs to support us in this endeavor. Please also consider making us part of your annual giving by renewing your membership, mailing a check, donating stock, or planning to support Friends of Minidoka through your estate.
Let it not happen again.
Over the years, Friends of Minidoka has been a primary supporter in the continued development at Minidoka National Historic Site; most recently we raised funds for and managed both the Honor Roll and Guard Tower reconstruction projects. This year, one of our primary projects has been the reconstruction of one of fourteen original baseball and softball fields at Minidoka.
Baseball played a key role in sustaining the 13,000 Nikkei who were incarcerated at Hunt Camp. Many incarcerees – whether youth or adults, male or female – played on one of the many fields throughout the camp. Almost every issue of the Minidoka Irrigator mentions baseball as part of life at camp.
The idea for Field-In-A-Day came from the 1952 Farm-In-A-Day event, during which 1,500 volunteers and over 11,000 spectators came to the Herrmann Farm, which was formerly part of Minidoka War Relocation Center near Fire Station #1, and built Herrmann’s two-bedroom house, constructed corrals, and plowed the fields all in a single day. Friends of Minidoka, NPS staff, and almost 150 registered volunteers will be participating in Field-In-A-Day on May 28th. The goal for the day is to build all of the field elements, apply field markings and install bases, install wayside panels, and create accessibility paths to the field. There will also be a noon program and tours of the site.
Through our online crowdfunding webpage at generosity.com, donations by mail and on the FoM website, and a small grant, we raised approximately $25,000 for the baseball field reconstruction. Thank you all for making this project possible! These generous donations paid for the materials for the field elements including the backstop, two scoreboards, two player benches, and two bleachers, as well as wayside exhibit panels interpreting the story of baseball and other sports at camp, and a donor plaque to honor all of you. Funds also went to supporting volunteers for the Field-In-A-Day event, and supporting the dedication of the field during the Pilgrimage. Excess funds will be used to maintain the field in the future, which will be used to play on during special events and tours.
Field-In-A-Day also received media attention. We received press inquiries from or were mentioned in the Idaho Statesman, Idaho State Journal, Boise Weekly, Rafu Shimpo, Asian American News, and NBC Asian America.
Formal dedication of the field will take place Sunday, June 26 during the annual Minidoka Pilgrimage. We can’t wait to welcome all of you back to the site to see your new baseball field. Thank you again for supporting this project.