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National Park Service awards Japanese American Confinement Sites grants

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 4, 2023—U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), and U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer (D, W-06) on June 2 announced that four Japanese American Confinement Sites grants have been awarded to organizations in the State of Washington, including one that will fund completion of the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial Visitor Center.

The Japanese American Confinement Sites grants are awarded by the National Park Service to preserve and interpret incarceration sites where Japanese Americans were detained during World War II. A total of 14 grants totaling $3,408,083 were awarded nationwide. 

“Japanese Americans throughout the State of Washington were unjustly detained and confined during World War II. These sites and organizations honor the strength and sacrifice of internment survivors and helps Americans heal and reflect on this terrible chapter in our country’s history. I am thankful for the vital work organizations in Washington are doing to document and educate current and future generations about these troubling times to help ensure they never happen again,” Sen. Cantwell said.

“The internment of Japanese Americans during WWII is one of the most painful chapters in Washington state’s history and in the history of our country—when tens of thousands of people were forcibly removed from their homes and kept against their wills in internment camps, for no reason but their ancestry. It’s so important that we teach future generations about this wrenching part of our history,” Sen. Murray said. “This funding will help ensure that the realities of internment, and the stories of the Japanese Americans who lived through it, will continue to be told and remembered in Washington state and around the country—so that nothing like this is ever again repeated.”

“I’m proud to see the National Park Service taking important steps to preserve and illuminate the stories of Japanese Americans who were unjustly incarcerated during World War II, including those who called Bainbridge Island home,” said Rep. Kilmer. “A new visitor center will help future generations better understand the heartbreaking stories chronicled at the Bainbridge Island memorial, describing how families were forcibly removed from their homes, and will help remind us that we must always be vigilant in fighting prejudice and discrimination.”

A total of $1,621,523 was awarded to four programs based in the State of Washington: 

Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial Visitor Center – $613,150

The Bainbridge Island Japanese American Memorial Association (BIJAMA) has worked with stakeholders for over a decade to complete the Exclusion Memorial on Bainbridge Island. The Story Wall was dedicated in 2011 and the Departure Deck was dedicated in 2021 to provide an overview of the forced removal of Japanese Americans from Bainbridge Island and subsequent incarceration. This project will complete the third and final element for the memorial—a visitor center. The visitor center will house interpretive and archival materials in a space that allows for reflection in light of contemporary events. This phase includes finalizing design and engineering documents, obtaining permits, completing site work, and installing utilities for the visitor center.

“Puyallup Assembly Center” Remembrance Gallery – $400,000

The Puyallup Valley Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League will help create the “Puyallup Assembly Center” Remembrance Gallery on the grounds of the Washington State Fair in Puyallup, Washington. The exhibit will be the first permanent exhibit at the Washington State Fair informing visitors of the 7,600 Japanese and Japanese American individuals who were incarcerated at the assembly center in 1942. The exhibit will feature video recordings, acknowledgment of the 7,600 incarcerees, newspaper articles, oral histories from survivors, and a re-creation of living quarters to convey the depth of injustices and consider how the events of 80 years ago remain relevant today.

Densho – Resettlement and Return: Effects of the Incarceration – $291,468

Densho, a non-profit organization based in Seattle, will collect 50,000 digital items and reach out to survivors and descendants seeking contextual information that will help interpret this material. New materials generated by this project will then be systematically added to Densho’s online encyclopedia and incorporated into other Densho projects like the interactive map-based “Sites of Shame” website, “Names Registry,” public programs, and other resources that users can access. The public will be able to access the new collections without charge through the Densho Digital Repository.

Densho Encyclopedia: Bringing a Critical Resource into the Next Decade – $316,905

Densho’s Encyclopedia has been an important publicly accessible online resource for accurate information pertaining to the forced removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. To ensure the Encyclopedia continues to be a user-friendly resource that hosts relevant scholarly content, Densho will undertake a much-needed update. Updates will include revisiting articles, images, and references to determine if revisions are needed considering new scholarship and making necessary changes; establishing an editorial structure; linking Densho’s interactive map to relevant articles; redesigning backend architecture; modernizing the Encyclopedia’s look and improving usability; and establishing and launching an internship program.

Sen. Cantwell has been a longtime supporter of preserving and telling the stories of the Japanese American confinement sites. In 2006 and 2007, Senator Cantwell and U.S. Representative Jay Inslee (D-WA-1) spearheaded the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Memorial Bill, which passed in 2008, and gave the NPS site status to the Japanese American Memorial at the Eagledale Ferry Dock on Bainbridge Island. The Memorial on Bainbridge is a satellite unit of the Minidoka Internment National Historic Monument in Jerome County, ID, which marks the place where many of those forcibly removed from Bainbridge Island were eventually sent.

Sen. Murray has supported the preservation of Japanese American confinement sites and education of the public regarding this shameful chapter of the country’s history. Sen Murray was a cosponsor of the Norman Y. Mineta Japanese American Confinement Education Act, which reauthorized the Japanese American Confinement Sites grant program and was signed into law earlier this year. Sen. Murray was also a cosponsor of the Minidoka National Historic Site Act, which culminated in the establishment of the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial to commemorate the Japanese Americans of Bainbridge Island who were the first families to be sent to internment camps. After pushing for the authorization of a study at the Department of Interior, Senators Murray and Cantwell secured $25,000 in funding in 2003 for a study of the Eagledale Ferry Dock site on Bainbridge Island, which served as a point of departure for members of the Japanese American community on their way to internment camps during World War II.

As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Kilmer has consistently supported the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial. Last year, Rep. Kilmer helped secure $198,000 in the National Park Service budget for the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Memorial and committee report language designed to improve the visitor experience at National Parks Service sites connected to Japanese internment.

SOURCE: Office of Senator Maria Cantwell

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