Public Lands History Center project raises awareness about WWII internment camps
History, Public Lands | December 22, 2015
Assistant Professor of History Sarah Payne, Faculty Program Manager at the Public Lands History Center, recently traveled to New Mexico to study WWII Japanese-Americans internment camps in New Mexico. The project, led by the Public Lands History Center and the Japanese American Citizens League, was recently featured in two news stories out of Albuquerque.
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Project Explores New Mexico prison camps for Japanese Americans during WWII
by Elaine D. Briseno, Albuquerque Journal
Nikki Louis had just celebrated her fourth birthday and was in bed after an exciting day when a knock came at her home in Seattle, Wash., that would change the course of her life.
It was Dec. 7, 1941, and the Japanese had just bombed Pearl Harbor, marking the entrance of the United States into World War II.
Louis, who now lives in New Mexico, was a second-generation Japanese-American born in the United States, making her a citizen. Her parents were not. They had both been born in Japan and U.S. laws at the time prevented them from becoming citizens. It was the FBI at their door and they had come to take away her father.
Louis is now involved with the Japanese-American Citizens League project “Confinement in the Land of Enchantment: Japanese Americans In New Mexico During WWII.” The project explores the New Mexico prison camps in Lordsburg, Santa Fe, Fort Stanton and Old Raton Ranch, which held Japanese-Americans during WWII.
The project is particularly timely considering the current national debate about immigration and Syrian and Muslim refugees and the ongoing sensitivity of the subject in parts of New Mexico.
The Lordsburg camp was open from June 1942 to June 1945, located six miles east of town. The 2,120-acre site had more than 280 buildings including barracks, a hospital and a recreation hall. A similar camp was established in Santa Fe and there were smaller camps at Fort Stanton and Old Raton Ranch.
The project aims to publicize the contents of a recently interpreted diary that was kept by the men at Lordsburg and also raise awareness of the camps in New Mexico. It’s a collaboration between the Japanese-American group and the Public Lands History Center out of Colorado State University, and is funded with an approximately $180,000 grant from the National Park Service.
Click here to read the full story.
Japanese-Americans wants remembrance of internment camps
by Robert Richardson, KOAT Albuquerque
Discussing the topic of Syrian refugees and Muslims in America is hitting close to some Japanese-Americans.
Victor Yamada said it brings up bad memories of the internment camps during World War II.
The United States rounded up Japanese-Americans and kept them incarcerated on the compounds. There were four camps in New Mexico, with sites at Fort Stanton, Old Raton Ranch, Lordsburg and an 80-acre site in Santa Fe.
The internment camps in New Mexico housed men only and were operated by the U.S. Department of Justice with guards from the Border Patrol. The War Relocation Authority managed compounds in other states which held families.
“In any of these cases, the family camps or in these camps in New Mexico, there was never really any government due process in terms of considering why people were put on a list and why they were moved,” Yamada said. “Their rights were taken away and they were put into prisons.”
Yamada, whose family lived south of Seattle, said his parents were part of a small minority who did not go to any of the camps.
Yamada was not born until after the war was over. He had no idea there were internment camps in New Mexico until about three years ago when he moved to Albuquerque.
He now serves as a board member for the New Mexico Japanese American Citizens League.
“We basically have two aims,” Yamada said about the JACL.
“One is to tell the story as it happened back in World War II, and the second is — like all history — it’s meant for people to be educated, to learn and to hopefully not repeat the same mistakes,” he said. “That’s exactly the purpose that our group is pursuing.”
Members are working on a project called “Confinement in the Land of Enchantment.”
NM JACL is working in conjunction with Colorado State University’s Public Lands History Center with assistance from the National Park Service’s Japanese American Confinement Sites Program.
Researchers are gathering information and stories about the people who lived at the internment camps. JACL members are also doing presentations at schools and community events.
Click here to read the full story.