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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes
TULE LAKE NWR: World War II Monument Dedicated at Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Region 8, July 16, 2009

This story was published July 3, 2009, in the Herald and News. It is reprinted here by permission.

By LEE JUILLERAT H&N Regional Editor
NEWELL — Prayers, incense, Taiko drums, chants, colorful paper cranes, words of reconciliation and promises for the future helped celebrate the formal dedication of the nation’s newest national park, the Tule Lake Unit of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument.

Nearly 700 people, including about 400 Japanese-Americans attending the ongoing Tule Lake Pilgrimage, sat under a blistering sun Friday to dedicate the park unit, which was created by presidential proclamation last December.

“When people visit this monument they will learn about the past, but they will learn the past doesn’t have to be repeated,” said Ren Lohoefener, regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific Southwest Region.

Internment centers

He and others referred to the years from 1942 to 1946 when Tule Lake was among 10 national internment camps for 120,000 Japanese-Americans following the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. Tule Lake, which later became the nation’s sole high-security segregation center, was the largest and most controversial of the camps. In the audience were more than 100 people who were incarcerated at Tule Lake.

“It is my hope that in the 1940s the sounds and sights of those birds gave some hope to the people here,” Lohoefener said, referring to the camp’s location along the Pacific Flyway migratory bird route.

The Tule Lake Unit is jointly managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service.

Jon Jarvis, the Park Service’s regional director, said a goal of the new park will be to tell the internment story. Noting that national parks include places of beauty like Yosemite and Crater Lake, he said the nation has also “chosen to set aside places where there is sorrow and concern.”

Jarvis said future public meetings will be held to determine the future of the Tule Lake Unit, noting, “Today is the story of a new journey … What are the stories we need to tell?”

Hiroshi Shimizu, president of the Tule Lake Committee, a group of former internees that sponsors the pilgrimages, termed it appropriate that the ceremonies were held in front of the former camp stockade, which many call a prison within a prison.

“It was where people were incarcerated,” said Shimizu, who was a young boy with his family at Tule Lake. “They were held without a trial, without a hearing. It became the most contentious place in Tule Lake.”

Validation

Following the dedication, Shimizu said naming the camp a national monument is a “validation of a lot of things we have been doing. It points to all the work we need to do.”

Jimi Yamaichi, who oversaw many camp construction projects, including building of the stockade, said he never expected to see the site become a national park. Yamaichi, 86, was a leader in efforts for the designation.

Contact Info: Scott Flaherty, , Scott_Flaherty@fws.gov