Report to the President:
Japanese-American Internment Sites Preservation
Background: The Minidoka Relocation Center (Relocation Center), also known as the Hunt Site, is located in Jerome County, Idaho. The site is located 14 miles east of Jerome and 20 miles northeast of Twin Falls.
The external boundaries of the Relocation Center included 33,000 acres. The administrative and residential areas were built on 950 acres in the west-central portion. Construction of the Relocation Center began on June 5, 1942 and the first evacuees arrived on August 10, 1942. The maximum population of the Relocation Center was 9,397 and was reached on March 1, 1943. The Relocation Center was in operation until October 28, 1945.
There were more than 600 buildings at the Relocation Center. Each of the 35 residential blocks had 12 barracks, a mess hall, a recreation hall, and a central H-shaped building with bathrooms, showers, and a laundry. Also within the residential areas were general stores, two elementary schools, a health clinic, fire stations, a civic center and a high school.
After the Relocation Center was closed, the area was divided into small farms. Most of the structures have been removed or demolished.
Current Status: A 6-acre portion of the Relocation Center was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.
The original 950 acres of administrative and residential section of the Relocation Center and Reclamation's ownership in the Relocation Center are now surrounded by private land. These private lands are mostly fields in agricultural production, with some lands used for grazing. Of these 950 acres only 84 acres remain in Reclamation jurisdiction. Of this acreage, 32 are withdrawn lands, with the remaining 52 acres being transferred to Reclamation from the War Department on March 18, 1947.
Reclamation has transferred management of 28 acres (of the 32 acres of withdrawn lands) to American Falls Reservoir Irrigation District (District), for the location of a maintenance shop and two ditch rider houses. This land is a part of the 84 acres in Reclamation jurisdiction, but does not include the six acres of land within the National Register boundaries (described below). The 28 acres contains two original site structures. These have been modified by the District and converted into employee housing.
Six acres of Reclamation land at the entrance of the camp are listed in the National Register. The parcel includes the standing basalt and concrete walls of what used to be a guard house and waiting room, a small area across the road from the guard house that once was an ornamental garden, and historical markers. These markers include interpretive and memorial signs and maps erected by Reclamation, the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) and the State.
The remainder of land under Reclamation jurisdiction is managed by Reclamation, rather than the irrigation district.
The site is in a remote location, and is subject to littering and vandalism. The presence of the District's facilities (including year-round occupation of the ditch riders houses) helps to curb vandalism.
Interpretation: The Jerome County Historical Museum has a small but apparently very popular display on the Relocation Center. The Museum has acquired two original Relocation Center barracks and moved them to their in-progress "Idaho Farm and Ranch Museum" located 18 miles west of the Relocation Center at the junction of Interstate 84 and U.S. Highway 93. One of the barracks will be used to interpret the Relocation Center. The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) building adjacent to the Museum was a mess hall moved from the Relocation Center. East of Jerome on State Highway 25 at the turnoff to the Relocation Center site there is a large state historical marker
Within the Relocation Center itself, at the stone guard house and waiting room at the Hunt Bridge, there is a small gravel parking area, paths, and interpretative signs about the internment. Also commemorated here are the Japanese Americans from the Relocation Center who died serving in the military during World War II.
Management authorities and practices: Section 110 of the National Historic Preservation Act (16 U.S.C. 470 et seq.) provides Reclamation the authority to manage and maintain the Relocation Center. The lands are withdrawn and acquired lands of the Minidoka Project which Reclamation has interpreted to permit the use of cultural resource nonreimbursable operation and maintenance funding for limited maintenance for stabilization purposes of the historic structures of the Relocation Center.
While Reclamation has the legal authority to continue managing the site, the agency does not presently possess the funding or staffing to restore the site and develop appropriate interpretation. In addition, these activities are outside of Reclamation's central mission and would be more appropriately conducted by another Federal agency, such as the National Park Service (NPS), which has historic preservation and interpretation as part of its central mission.
Management Options: Programs should be explored that focus interpretation of the site's history to the public at the site as well as at the existing Jerome County Historical Museum's Relocation Center display. Walking paths to the existing signage will be explored. Reclamation could consider entering into an agreement with the Jerome Museum or Historical Society that would provide for Reclamation assistance with exhibits and protection of the buildings, and acquisition and preservation of Relocation Center artifacts and memorabilia.
The interpretive materials and displays installed at the former entry of the Relocation Center excellently memorialize the historic internment experience and interpret the remnants of the guard station at the camp entry. However, additional signage could be installed to interpret other functional areas of the camp. With JACL assistance, Reclamation could locate photographs that show what the original garden looked like, or possibly obtain information about the garden from a former internee or archival information. In areas of the Relocation Center under Reclamation administration, stone foundations representing original internment camp structures are present; these foundations could serve as excellent candidates for on-site interpretation.
Reclamation could financially assist in making valuable information about the Relocation Center stored in other facilities more readily available to researchers, educators, and other interested members of the public. Oral histories of former internment camp residents have been compiled by Ms. Rita Takahashi, a professor at San Francisco State University and daughter of a former internee. Idaho State Historical Society (ISHS) has obtained copies of the interview tapes, but is in need of funding to create summary indices of the tapes, and then to transcribe them into English (only a small number have been transcribed to date). Discussions with Mr. Troy Reeves, ISHS Oral Historian, indicate that federal financial assistance to complete the transcription project would be welcome. Such financial assistance could also aid in the production of an oral history volume or videotape of the internment camp experience. The Jerome County Historical Society has essentially all copies of the "Minidoka Irrigator," a weekly newspaper written by the camp internees. They have indicated they need technical and financial assistance to copy the newspapers so that they can be protected and translated.
Information requests about the Relocation Center are often made by the public at the Reclamation office in Burley, Idaho. Information provided to the public includes newspaper articles, pictures, maps, and other documents. Reclamation could consider developing a Relocation Center brochure, containing period photos and a narrative, designed to convey to the reader the reason for the camps and what life was like in them. The brochure could be placed at other visitor locations to encourage visitation to the Jerome Historical Museum and the Relocation Center.
Regional Context: The closest land to the Relocation Center in Federal ownership is managed by the BLM, which manages a large acreage of land in the area, with the closest land located one mile away from the Relocation Center. Jerome, Idaho is located about 14 miles northwest of the Relocation Center. Twin Falls, Idaho is located about 20 miles southwest of the Relocation Center, where BLM and Forest Service offices are located.
Three National Monuments are located in the area: Craters of the Moon National Monument boundary is located about 10 miles to the northeast; Hagerman Fossil Beds is located about 35-40 miles to the northwest; and City of Rocks National Monument is located about 50 miles to the southeast.
A Jerome county road runs through the middle of the remaining 84 acres in Federal ownership at the Relocation Center. The Relocation Center is located 10 miles from an exit of Interstate I-80.
Interested Parties/Stakeholders and Opinions:
Jerome Historical Society - The Society does not want to lose (or have them transferred to the Relocation Center) what they already have, including the barracks they already have at the museum. They think that what is at the Relocation Center is enough - it is impressive the way it is, except the garden site could be developed. Possibly the potato cellar could be repaired and maybe a display on agricultural production of the camp located there. The Society could use some help on the "Minidoka Irrigator," the Relocation Center camp weekly newspaper. They need these newspapers copied or microfilmed to preserve the originals they have at the museum. The Society would consider site management.
American Falls Reservoir Irrigation District - The irrigation district uses three of the 28 acres for operation and maintenance purposes. The District Manager has no recommendations for the Relocation Center, except that what had been done seems adequate to him.
Bob Sims, Professor, History Department, Boise State University - Professor Sims has a special research interest in the internment camps, and has a manuscript on the Relocation Center nearing completion. Suggestions offered by Professor Sims to enhance interpretation at the Relocation Center include a more substantial place to gather (such as a pavilion) and a reconstructed barracks model.
Steve Thorson, Chairman of the Board, South Central Idaho Tourism and Recreational Development Association for south-central Idaho. This Association supports some sort of memorial (beyond what is there) at the Relocation Center (not off-site). They would be willing to fulfill the roll of facilitator of local community interest and support for this.
Bureau of Land Management manages other public lands in the area (which are within one mile of the Relocation Center, but not adjacent). They have indicated that they are not interested, nor are they staffed, to manage the Relocation Center.
National Park Service (NPS) - Neil King, Superintendent, Hagermen Fossil Beds National Monument - Mr. King offered NPS assistance in this project. The NPS would help with interpretation and management, following a public process. Another contact for the NPS would be Stephanie Toothman, Chief of Cultural Resources in Seattle.
Japanese American Citizens League. The Blackfoot (Idaho) Chapter of the JACL was involved in previous efforts to recognize the value of the Relocation Center. Mr. Hid Hasegawa and Mr. Hero Shiosaki, among others, are JACL members who were active in that prior effort and remain interested in the Relocation Center.
Seattle Chapter, Japanese American Citizens League
Mr. Hero Shiosaki - Blackfoot Chapter JACL member actively involved in 1989 Relocation Center interpretive development and site dedication.
Ed Hirahara - Contact for Japanese-Americans in the Boise area.
George Iseri - Contact for the Japanese-American community in Malheur County, and the Four Rivers Cultural Center in Ontario, an institution which began as an effort to construct a museum devoted to Japanese Americans.
Karyl Winn - University of Washington Libraries - This Library contains a large number of excellent collections relating to the Relocation Center.
Tom Ikeda, Director, Densho - Japanese American Legacy Project. The Densho organization conducts filmed and taped interviews of Japanese Americans and others significant in the history of that ethnic group. They have about 200 interviews to date, many of which contain material relating to Minidoka.
Karen Yoshitomi, Regional Director, Pacific Northwest District Council, Japanese American Citizens League
Ron Chew, Executive Director, The Wing Luke Asian Museum - This Museum is an important organization in preserving and providing public access to the history of Asians in the Pacific Northwest. They have an extensive collection concerning Japanese Americans.
Kay Teramura, Idaho-Oregon Nikkeijinkai - The Nikkeijinkai means literally, an organization of persons of Japanese ancestry.
Les Bock, Executive Director, Idaho Human Rights Education Center - This organization is engaged in a large-scale project on human rights with the Association of Idaho Cities.
Increase historic recognition for the Camp by (1) extending the boundaries of the six acres currently on the National Register of Historic Places to include some of the building foundations located on adjoining Reclamation lands; and (2) coordinating with the State Historic Preservation Officer and the National Park Service to determine whether the Relocation Center possesses qualities which would render it eligible for NHL status. If the Relocation Center is deemed eligible for NHL status, Reclamation will, in coordination with NPS, initiate the nomination process for designating the Relocation Center as a NHL.
In order to address ongoing maintenance needs, Reclamation will develop a cooperative agreement with the Jerome County Historical Society (JCHS) whereby the Society would manage the site by collecting trash and monitoring for appropriate use. Recent discussions with JCHS indicate they may be amenable to joint Reclamation/JCHS management of the site. The site is situated in a remote location, with Reclamation staff devoting a few days per year for clean up and cursory monitoring of the site; a more frequent presence at the site would be desirable.
In the longer term, Reclamation will develop a plan that provides a framework for managing the Relocation Center in future years. The plan would identify potential partners such as JCHS, the Japanese-American Citizens League, and Dr. Robert Sims, former Professor Emeritus at Boise State University, among others. The focus of the plan would be the development of physical and administrative measures for protecting and interpreting the site for the benefit of the public. The plan would explore programs that focus interpretation at more accessible locations which reach larger numbers of visitors (such as the Jerome County Historical Museum), as well as programs that focus interpretation at the Relocation Center itself. Finally, the plan would address law enforcement and enforcement authority as relates to protection of the site.
In addition, Reclamation will work increase interpretation for the Camp by coordinating with the Jerome County Historical Museum to determine the cost of transcribing tapes and preserving the Relocation Center newspaper.