Critical Tule Lake General Management Plan Meetings Scheduled

Panoramic view of Tule Lake Segregation Center, 1946.
Photo: R.H. Ross, War Relocation Authority

Editor’s Note: Like they did during the very early planning stages for the development of the Manzanar National Historic Site, the National Park Service is approaching the early planning for the Tule Lake Unit of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument in much the same way, with scoping sessions/meetings to hear what the public, and the Japanese American community in particular, has to say about how the Tule Lake site should be managed. The National Park Service will take these comments and use them to form a “General Management Plan” (GMP) that will be used to guide them in the management and development of Tule Lake over the next twenty years or so—this is exactly what they did for the Manzanar National Historic Site.

Having been an active participant in the scoping sessions in Los Angeles for the Manzanar National Historic Site GMP, and then having served on the Manzanar National Historic Site Advisory Commission, I cannot stress enough how crucial it is for the Japanese American community to let the National Park Service know what is important to us. It doesn’t matter if you were incarcerated at Tule Lake or not. It doesn’t matter if you were in another camp, or a member of the younger generation who only knows about the camps from word-of-mouth stories, or what you learned in a class. The National Park Service must “get it right” at Tule Lake, and the only way they can do that is with our help and guidance, so please be sure to attend one of more of the meetings they’ve scheduled in California, Washington and Oregon, and online. These meetings are our best opportunity to let them know exactly what we think and want, to keep them on task, and to put them on the right track for the creation of Tule Lake’s General Management Plan.

The following is from the National Park Service.


Dear Friends,

You are invited to join us in charting the future of the Tule Lake Unit of World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument for the next twenty years. The Tule Lake Unit, in rural Newell, California, preserves a landscape through which the public can discover the impact World War II had on thousands of Japanese Americans, the local community, and our understanding of civil liberties for all Americans.

Visitors to Tule Lake are often surprised to discover what occurred here, and some feel a haunting and spiritual connection to this place. Many believe the power of Tule Lake rests with the historical events and personal stories that unfolded here over 70 years ago. Already, the site’s designation as a National Historic Landmark is a tribute to the incredible stories of Tule Lake.

The National Park Service is dedicated to preserving the sites and stories of the past so we may continue to learn valuable lessons from them long into the future. While the historic buildings and landscape are evidence of the past, your help is needed in identifying how Tule Lake’s history is relevant today and how to share this history with visitors. Breathing life into the historic structures and landscape through first-person accounts, enlightening interpretation, and improved access to the site will enable the public to more fully understand the significance of Tule Lake’s history.

As a new unit, there is no comprehensive plan for Tule Lake, and the National Park Service faces many issues and challenges for its future management. The most overarching issues are how to interpret what occurred at Tule Lake and how to ensure that visitors have meaningful experiences at Tule Lake tied to its history. In addition, planning will also address the preservation of the unit’s historic features and landscapes, its internal and adjacent boundaries, and how its areas could be developed for greater public access.

We are especially fortunate to be guided in the planning process by the invaluable insight and inspiration of many individuals and groups closely tied to this story. We have communicated with many of you already, and we look forward to engaging new individuals and groups in the development of a comprehensive and long-term plan for Tule Lake.

This is your opportunity to help create a vision for the future of Tule Lake. We are asking for your help and ideas as we develop the general management plan. Starting in June, the National Park Service will host public workshops in California, Oregon, Washington, and online. We sincerely hope you will join us at one of these workshops to meet the planning team and share your ideas, concerns, and thoughts about Tule Lake.

If you cannot attend a workshop, this newsletter identifies several other ways to provide comments and participate in the planning process. Please feel free to share your thoughts and ideas with us at any time. Your input is essential. Let us all join together in a spirit of cooperation and collaboration as we go forward.

Sincerely,
Mike Reynolds
Superintendent
Tule Lake Unit, World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument

Meetings

Tuesday, June 18, 6-8 PM
Tulelake, CA
Tulelake High School
850 Main Street

Wednesday, June 19, 6-8 PM
Klamath Falls, OR
Ross Ragland Cultural Center
218 North 7th Street

Monday, July 1, 6-8 PM
Portland, OR
Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center
121 Northwest 2nd Avenue

Tuesday, July 2, 10:30am-12:30 PM
Hood River, OR
Hood River Public Library
502 West State Street

Tuesday, July 2, 6-8 PM
Auburn, WA
White River Valley Museum
918 H Street Southeast

Wednesday, July 3, 4-6 PM
Seattle, WA
Japanese Community Cultural Center
1414 South Weller Street

Friday, July 5, 10am-12 PM
Seattle, WA
Speaking Up! Democracy, Justice, Dignity Conference
Sheraton Seattle Hotel
1400 Sixth Avenue

Wednesday, July 24, 6-8 PM
Los Angeles, CA
Japanese American Cultural & Community Center
244 South San Pedro Street, Suite 505

Thursday, July 25, 10 AM-12 PM
Carson, CA
California State University, Dominguez Hills
University Library, South Wing
1000 East Victoria Street

Friday, July 26, 10 AM-12 PM
San Diego, CA
Thornton Theatre San Diego History Center
1649 El Prado

Saturday, July 27, 10 AM-12 PM
Los Angeles, CA
Japanese American Cultural & Community Center
244 South San Pedro Street, Suite 505

Thursday, September 5, 10 AM-12 PM
Virtual Meeting*

Tuesday, September 17, 6-8 PM
Sacramento, CA
Sierra II Center
2791 24th Street

Wednesday, September 18, 6-8 PM
Berkeley, CA
David Brower Center
2150 Allston Way

Thursday, September 19, 10 AM-12 PM
San Francisco, CA
Japanese American Community Cultural Center of Northern California
1840 Sutter Street

Thursday, September 19, 6-8 PM
San Jose, CA
Japanese American Museum of San Jose
535 North 5th Street

Tuesday, September 24, 3-5 PM
Virtual Meeting*

* Web access information for the virtual meetings will be posted on the Tule Lake web sites, Facebook page, and widely announced.


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7 Responses to Critical Tule Lake General Management Plan Meetings Scheduled

  1. Donald Hata says:

    Gann,

    Thanks to you and the Manzanar Committee for helping to get the word out, in order to “get it right.”

    The National Park Service needs to see a significant turnout of Japanese Americans at these public meetings. There has for too long been a veil of silence about Tule Lake among Nikkei that needs to be lifted. Vicious rumors continue to stigmatize Tule Lake as having been the special wartime segregation center for “troublemakers” and “disloyals.” During my three decades of teaching I encountered a strong sense of self-loathing among Nisei who had been imprisoned at Tule Lake. Most refused to discuss the subject even with their own Sansei children, and many of the latter unquestioningly inherited the stigma and shame of the “disloyal” label. That simplistic distortion of the facts must end, and it can if the complicated story is accurately depicted in the interpretive center planned for Tule Lake.

    What really happened to Nikkei at the notorious Tule Lake Segregation Center was arguably the most horrific of all the ten major concentration camps in the vast gulag of administered by the U.S. War Relocation Authority (WRA). Regular U.S. Army units included main battle tanks, and troops with bayonets conducted surprise midnight searches of the barracks. The violations of basic human rights by the WRA and the Army included documented examples of isolation, beatings, torture, and death. As in all the WRA concentration camps, and especially at Tule Lake, self-serving Nikkei informers and collaborators, known to the prisoners as inu (dogs) and nezumi (rats), exacerbated the atmosphere of sustained stress, paranoia, and powerlessness produced by punitive WRA administrators. Daily life seemed so hopeless that many prisoners were moved to renounce their citizenship.

    During one of the general sessions at the last Tule Lake pilgrimage, I made a spontaneous motion to reject the widespread and false label of Tuleans as “troublemakers” and “disloyals” and redefine them as “American patriots,” for having had the courage to speak out and risk the terrible consequences that befell them and their loved ones. A dozen people seconded the motion and it passed with near unanimous support (one person objected that it was out of order).

    The right to speak out against injustice is allegedly at the core of being an American, not obsequious capitulation for the sake of mere survival. It is time for Japanese America to confront the decades of lies and rumors that have for too long distorted and maligned the reputations of those who were imprisoned at Tule Lake. The entire saga is a complicated mosaic of competing and contradictory facts and perceptions, but these public meetings are the first step toward revealing the old myths and replacing those simplistic fictional fabrications with the truth.

    Pass the word and plan to attend one of the public meetings in the Los Angeles area in late July. And bring friends, especially students. Your presence can send a clear message to the National Park Service: Be skeptical and scrutinize self-serving mythologies pushed by vested interest groups; do thorough research and get all the facts and perspectives; and get it right.

    Don Hata, PhD
    Emeritus Professor of History
    California State University, Dominguez Hills

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