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Legislation to change Tule Lake status offered

by LEE JUILLERAT, Herald and News Jan 7, 2016

Camp Tule Lake

Camp Tule LakeThese Japanese internees work as operators on a seed potato planting machine in Tulelake, Calif., May 23, 1943. Legislation was recently introduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., to establish the former Tule Lake Detention Center, Peninsula and Camp Tulelake as a historic site.

Legislation to establish the Tule Lake National Historic Site that was recently introduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., would create the Tule Lake Unit as separate from the existing World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument.

Larry Whalon, superintendent for the Tule Lake Unit and Lava Beds National Monument, said if Boxer’s proposal is approved, the three sites that make up the unit would be known as the Tule Lake National Historic Site. It would include the former Tule Lake Detention Center, Peninsula and Camp Tulelake.

Tule Lake was the largest “War Relocation Authority” camp during World War II, incarcerating nearly 19,000 Japanese-Americans. The Peninsula includes an area where incarcerated Japanese-Americans were allowed to hike until Tule Lake became the nation’s only high-security segregation center.

Incarceration camps

The Tule Lake Unit is one of several sites in the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument created by President George W. Bush in 2008. If approved, the legislation would elevate the Tule Lake Camp in equal recognition with other incarceration camps that are also preserved and managed by the NPS.

Others with that recognition include Manzanar National Historic Site in California and Minidoka National Historic Site in Idaho.

“It’s good news in that Tule Lake would be a unit by itself,” Whalon said. “If nothing else, it shortens the name,” he added with a laugh.

Since its creation, the Tule Lake Unit has shared staff with Lava Beds. While Whalon would still oversee both Tule Lake and Lava Beds, he said the designation would help the Tule Lake Unit become more independent and eliminate some of staffing and maintenance sharing issues. The designation, he emphasized, would not enlarge or change boundaries of the Tule Lake Unit.

“For the purpose of operations it would make things quite a bit easier,” Whalon said of managing the Tule Lake Unit. He noted a general management plan is currently being created. He expects the draft plan will be available for public review and comment in May.

Others praised Boxer’s proposal.

“This legislation will give Tule Lake the national recognition it deserves, while honoring the tens of thousands of Japanese-Americans who were forcibly relocated and incarcerated in one of our country’s darkest moments,” Boxer said in a press release.

Sharing history

“Senator Boxer’s bill will distinguish the Tule Lake Camp as a nationally significant historic site, for which we are grateful,” said Barbara Takei of the Tule Lake Committee, which represents survivors of the wartime incarceration and their descendants. “The senator’s efforts will help educate Americans about a period of American history that we trust will never be repeated.”

“National Parks Conservation Association applauds Senator Boxer’s legislation to establish Tule Lake National Historic Site, joining Manzanar and Minidoka in our National Park System to connect visitors to our country’s history and the injustices that Japanese-Americans faced during World War II,” said Ron Sundergill, Pacific Region senior director of the National Parks Conservation Association.

Since the Tule Lake Camp was included in the National Monument in 2008, people have expressed concerns the name of the monument — World War II Valor in the Pacific — was inappropriate for a site aimed at remembering the incarceration of more than 110,000 Japanese-Americans, two-thirds of them American citizens, during World War II.

Before President Bush created the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, Boxer, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Doris Matsui, all from California, sponsored legislation to determine whether Tule Lake should be preserved as part of the NPS.

The Tule Lake Unit includes three sites in two counties. Along with Tule Lake, it includes the Camp Tulelake Civilian Conservation Corps Camp, which also served as a prisoner of war camp for German and Italian soldiers during World War II and Peninsula-Castle Rock.


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