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Planning the Tule Lake Unit’s Future

August 15, 2013

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The Tule Lake Unit is situated in Tulelake, California, just south of the Oregon border.  Why then, you ask, are we posting on the blog for the National Parks of the Pacific Islands?  Well, the Tule Lake Unit is part of WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument, which preserves and interprets the experiences of suffering on the home front during the Pacific War, including the events at Pearl Harbor, the battles on the Aleutians in Alaska, and the incarceration of persons of Japanese ancestry (Nikkei) from the West Coast.  Today we are posting because we need your ideas to help shape the future of the Tule Lake Unit.

Tule Lake was the largest of these incarceration facilities, holding a maximum of 18,789 Nikkei, it was the last to close, and it was the only one which came to be termed a ‘segregation center’.  Following the events of Pearl Harbor, the United States military pressured the government to forcibly remove the Japanese American community from the West Coast, viewing them as a threat in case of a ground invasion.  With Executive Order 9066, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave the military this power.  Thus began the forced removal of 120,000 men, women, and children, who had been convicted of no crime – save their race.

Tule Lake opened as one of 10 centers run by the War Relocation Authority (WRA), these were termed ‘relocation centers’.  Forced to leave their homes, possessions, and friends, they were moved into these incarceration facilities.  In early 1943, a loyalty questionnaire was issued.  This questionnaire had highly confusing language, and the incarcerees were not certain what the effects would be of saying either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the questions regarding their loyalty.  Some people said ‘no’ to the most objectionable questions  in order to keep their families together or to protest their incarceration; whatever their reasoning, those who said ‘no’ were then labeled as “disloyal” by the US government.  They were sent to Tule Lake, which became known as the Tule Lake Segregation Center, further segregating these supposedly disloyal Japanese Americans.

Despite this difficult period, the Nikkei community persevered, and is a vital voice on the West Coast once more.  But for those who were incarcerated at Tule Lake, a stigma persists.  Many stories remain locked away, but more and more people are sharing.  At the Tule Lake Unit, we work to promote their stories and experiences, educating the public about the incarceration.  As part of this, our staff has been travelling up and down the West Coast, hosting meetings in Tulelake, Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles and San Diego, but we’re not done yet!  This planning process will help shape the General Management Plan for the Tule Lake Unit; it will define the projects the park works on and what visitors will experience here.  In September we will also host virtual meetings, to incorporate those who are interested in or affected by the story, and who want to be a part of the future development of the Tule Lake Unit.  With such a complicated story, we are asking for everyone to give their feedback, helping us to shape the future of both our unit and of the WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument as a whole.

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We would be grateful if you would consider joining us for one of these virtual meetings on September 5 and 24, or would submit your comments online or by mail anytime between now and October 11, 2013.  For more information about the planning process, please take a look at our website: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/projectHome.cfm?projectID=46412, and don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions at  or 530-260-0537.

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