Honouliuli Preservation Efforts Gain JACL’s Support

Published by the Pacific Citizen July 15, 2011

At the 42nd Annual JACL National Convention Japanese Americans voiced their support to preserve the history and legacy of the Honouliuli internment camp in Hawaii.

By Nalea J. Ko, Reporter

Efforts to preserve a Hawaii internment camp used to detain people of Japanese and German ancestry after the bombing of Pearl Harbor gained the support of the JACL.

At the 2011 JACL National Convention on July 8 delegates passed a resolution with a majority vote in support of preserving the Honouliuli site.

Seventy-eight JACL chapters that were in good standing were present at the convention and able to vote, according to Credentials Chair Reiko Yoshino. Seven district youth representatives with voting privileges were also present.

Supporters of the resolution say the history of Japanese American internment in Hawaii must be documented, preserved and maintained for future generations.

“There’s a lot of misperception that no one was interned and no one was unjustly held or removed [in Hawaii]. But they were,” said Trisha Nakamura, a Yonsei of the JACL Honolulu chapter. “Even if they weren’t detained, the anti-Japanese sentiment that was running rampant during World War II also existed in Hawaii. And places like Honouliuli serve as focal points to really bring up those stories and to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Colette Masunaga, of the Florin JACL chapter, also spoke in favor of the resolution.

The resolution was sponsored by the JACL Honolulu chapter and approved by the Northern California-Western Nevada-Pacific District.

At the JACL national council meeting, Nakamura said that the National Park Service, or NPS, is finalizing a Special Resource Study to determine how to best preserve the site. That study is slated to be presented to Congress later this year.

The total cost associated with supporting the resolution is $1,186, according to a fiscal impact statement prepared by Nakamura.

Some 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry were incarcerated during World War II, following the signing of Executive Order 9066 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Over 300 people of Japanese heritage and 30 people of German ancestry were held in Honouliuli, which is located in a gulch on the island of Oahu.

The Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii, or JCCH, has spearheaded preservation efforts of the site, which is owned by Monsanto. In June it was announced that the JCCH received $38,565 from NPS to begin a pilot program to offer tours to Honouliuli.

The JACL’s resolution was one of several considered at the national convention held from July 7 to 10 in Hollywood, Calif.

Proponents of the JACL resolution say the United States Department of Interior has the necessary resources and expertise to oversee the site in the future.

Chip Larouche, Pacific Northwest District governor, motioned to amend the resolution to correct the spelling of the United States National Park Service. He also suggested changing the word internment to “unjust incarceration.” With those amendments, the resolution passed unopposed.

Supporters say the preservation of the Honouliuli site will benefit Hawaii residents as well as those in the continental U.S.

“I was born and raised in Hawaii and had very little knowledge of the incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII,” said Dawn Rego, of the Seattle chapter. “I think it would be a great service to not only the citizens of Hawaii, but also all of the United States citizens to have more education on Honouliuli [and] the injustices that occurred in Hawaii.”

There was also a traditional convention courtesy resolution at the national council meeting to thank the committee for organizing the 2011 JACL convention.

Download the full text of the Honouliuli resolution