Monday, July 4, 2016

Minidoka Pilgrimage

I’m on my 45th camping trip, in our 35th year with Bruce Gregory and Stephen Johnson, and we traveled to the Minidoka Japanese internment camp in Idaho, also called Camp Hunt.  We are all interested in western history, and since I had been there a few years ago I knew they would enjoy it.  It turned out to be an amazing experience.

When we arrived we found out that there were two special events in progress.  Former internees and their descendants were there by the busloads for an annual pilgrimage, and a new baseball field was being dedicated.  There were about 250 people present to remember the past, discuss the possibilities of this injustice happening again to other ethnic groups, and to look to the future of the camp.  Many came from the Seattle area, where a large number of internees originated in World War II.

Baseball was important to many of the 9000 people who were forced to live there, and the restoration of one of the fourteen ball fields was completed as a field-in-a-day project on May 28th and dedicated during our visit on June 26th.

 Several people there wore Camp Hunt baseball shirts.

Minidoka is run by the National Park Service, and at one time there was very little left of the site, but now parts of it are being restored.  There are still a few concrete slabs from original structures, and now buildings that were removed from the camp when it was closed are being located and moved back.  A guard tower replica has been constructed and interpretive signs have been put in place.  So, the National Park Service and Friends of Minidoka are working together to build a site that will help people understand the injustice that occurred here.

For now, artifacts from Minidoka are on display at Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument visitor’s center, which is 38 miles away.  I hope that someday soon an on-site visitor’s center will be completed.

A highlight of the visit for me was the placing of origami peace cranes on a barbed wire rack.  People wrote their thoughts and dedications on the cranes before tying them to the rack.

The day was a moving experience for everyone there, and I feel that we stumbled on an important piece of Idaho history.

See my blog post about Topaz for a brief explanation of internment camps.

Remember to ask permission before using my copyrighted photos for any purpose.

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