Boxer introduces bill designating Tule Lake camp as National Historic Site

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) on Dec. 17 introduced legislation to establish the former Tule Lake concentration camp as a National Historic Site managed by the National Park Service, a statement from Boxer’s office said.

Tule Lake was the largest “War Relocation Authority” camp during World War II, incarcerating nearly 19,000 persons of Japanese descent, most of whom were American citizens.

Currently, the Tule Lake, Calif. camp is one of many sites that make up the “World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument” created by President George W. Bush in 2008.

The new legislation would elevate the Tule Lake camp in equal recognition with other incarceration camps that are also preserved and managed by the National Park Service, the statement notes.

“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.

“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, a grassroots nonprofit organization that represents survivors of the wartime incarceration and their descendants, in the statement. “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, many have expressed concerns that the name of the monument — “World War II Valor in the Pacific” — was “inappropriate for a site aimed at remembering the grave injustice done to more than 110,000 Japanese Americans nationwide during the war,” the statement added.

Under the new legislation, the camp would be designated as the Tule Lake National Historic Site, similar to the National Park Service-managed Manzanar National Historic Site in Inyo County, Calif. and the Minidoka National Historic Site in Idaho.

Before President Bush created the “World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument,” Sen. Boxer, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento) sponsored legislation to determine whether the Tule Lake camp should be preserved as part of the National Park System, the statement from Boxer’s office said.

The camp is composed of three sites across two California counties: the Camp Tule Lake Civilian Conservation Corps Camp, which also served as a prisoner of war camp for German and Italian soldiers, in Siskiyou County; a portion of the Tule Lake Segregation Center in Modoc County; and Peninsula-Castle Rock, also in Modoc County. At Peninsula-Castle Rock, incarcerated Japanese Americans were allowed to hike and recreate until 1943, when Tule Lake became a higher security segregation center for Japanese Americans from other camps who conscientiously objected to taking “loyalty oaths.”

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