Whitworth Communications

For Immediate Release

April 10, 2003

Whitworth to Host Symposium on Japanese Americans'
WWII Relocation to Eastern Washington

Whitworth College will host a symposium, From Coast and Camp to the Inland Empire: Japanese-American Evacuation and Relocation to Eastern Washington During World War II, on Monday, April 21, at 1:30 p.m. in the Hixson Union Building conference rooms A, B, and C. Admission is free. For more information, please call (509) 777-4751.

The symposium will feature an audio documentary presented by Rose Sliger and Janet Hauck, co-directors of Whitworth's Japanese-American oral-history project, and lectures by Gail Nomura of the University of Washington and Robert Sims of Boise State University.

During World War II, 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry were forced from their homes into internment camps. Two-thirds of those incarcerated were American citizens. However, a small percentage of people - less than 10 percent - were allowed to remain outside the camps. The symposium will tell the story of Japanese Americans living in Western Washington who were affected by evacuation, internment and relocation during World War II, yet were incarcerated only briefly, if at all.

The symposium is being held in connection with the Whitworth Weyerhaeuser Center for Christian Faith and Learning's oral-history archive project of the same name. The project is funded through the Washington Civil Liberties Public Education Program, which is part of the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

For the project, Sliger has been gathering oral histories from Japanese Americans who relocated from Western Washington, Oregon, California, and Alaska to the Inland Northwest during World War II. Many of the people Sliger interviewed were students at Whitworth, Gonzaga University, and Washington State University during the war and thus avoided internment.

During the symposium, Sliger and Hauck will present an audio documentary, From Coast and Camp to the Inland Empire, which features oral-history interviews, narration and music that chronicle the journeys of Japanese Americans from the West Coast to Eastern Washington. Its purpose is to educate students and the community about historical violations of civil rights, in order to ensure that similar violations may be prevented in the future.

Gail Nomura, assistant professor of American ethnic studies at the University of Washington, will give a lecture, "Contested Terrain: The Prewar Japanese-American Community in the Yakima Valley." Nomura will examine the pre-World War II development of a Japanese-American community in the Yakima Valley, and will explore the ways in which racial discrimination and exclusionist pressures to restrict the economic livelihoods of Japanese immigrants led to the formation of ethnic identities and organizations to protect and promote their collective interests.

"The Japanese developed a discourse of inclusion to counter the racist discourse of exclusion," Nomura says.

As another feature of the symposium, Robert Sims, emeritus professor of history at Boise State University, will present a lecture, "'Good Schools are Essential .': The Education Program at Minidoka War Relocation Authority Camp." Sims will discuss the contradictions and difficulties that affected the effort to create and operate an education system for the War Relocation Authority at Minidoka, a camp located in south-central Idaho.

"Obviously, the lessons of democracy as dictated by the curriculum guide created for all camps were seriously challenged by the reality of the students' daily lives, which had a significant impact on the educational experience," Sims says.

The archive project and the symposium are timely in light of the current war in Iraq and the controversy that has arisen over the arrest, detention and denial of the 5th, 6th, and 7th amendment rights of people of Arab descent in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"This project identifies how civil rights have been denied to people in the United States during a time of war," Sliger says. "I think if we make an effort to teach people how important historic events affected individuals in personal ways, then people can relate to those events more easily and can help prevent future violations of civil rights."

To learn more about Whitworth's Japanese-American oral-history project, log on to www.whitworth.edu/Library/Archives/OnlineExhibits.


Rose Sliger, program assistant, Weyerhaeuser Center for Christian Faith and Learning, Whitworth College, (509) 777-3774 or rsliger@whitworth.edu.

Janet Hauck, college archivist, Weyerhaeuser Center for Christian Faith and Learning, Whitworth College, (509) 777-4751 or jhauck@whitworth.edu.

Julie Riddle, public information specialist, Whitworth College, (509) 777-3729 or jriddle@whitworth.edu.

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