The National Park Service invited the Idaho Japanese Association for the opening of a new visitor center at the Minidoka National Historic site near Jerome, Idaho. The opening, on February 22, included Governor Brad Little and survivors of the Minidoka Internment Camp. Over 200 people were there for the opening.
The Minidoka Internment Camp was one of the nation’s largest internment camps during World War II, housing nearly 13,000 Japanese Americans at its peak. Internees included residents from Alaska, Washington, California and Oregon. The camp was active from 1942 to 1945, starting from a muddy field with barracks and ending with a church, a post office and schools. The internees did their best to make Minidoka home, but sadly, many internees lost their lives due to illness and the stress of living in very poor conditions. Many internees died at Minidoka and were buried on the site.
Those that survived had nothing when the camp closed. US laws allowed the government to seize the internees homes and take their savings. Most internees eventually left the camp destitute and in poverty, with only a bus ticket and $25 given to them from the US government.
The “Friends of Minidoka“, a non-profit group made of past internees and supporters, realized nearly 10 years ago that the site of the Minidoka camp was falling into disrepair, with many of the buildings nearly gone at the time. If something wasn’t done to preserve this history, they feared it would be forgotten.
The National Park Service has graciously partnered with the Friends of Minidoka to ensure the history of this site is preserved. The new visitor’s center is the newest symbol of that partnership.
The visitor’s center is now open for the public to learn about one of the saddest chapters in America’s history.
“I urge people to come here and support this facility, to learn about it, so that we don’t forget going forward, about the parts of our Constitution that gives American citizens certain rights, and that occasional the majority runs over the top of them. We should never do that again,” said Governor Little.