LOS ANGELES — Being part of the Manzanar Committee, and having served on the Manzanar National Historic Site Advisory Commission from 1994-2002, I have had the opportunity to meet and work with most of the National Park Service (NPS) employees who have served on staff at Manzanar since it became a unit of the NPS back in 1992.
Since that time, something I’ve said over and over is that the general public, the people of the Owens Valley, and in particular, the Japanese American community, have been extremely fortunate to have such amazing, dedicated, quality people working at Manzanar.
On July 24, I had the opportunity to meet some of the NPS staff working at the Tule Lake Unit of the World War II Valor In The Pacific National Monument, including Superintendent Mike Reynolds and Anna Tamura, Planning Lead for the Tule Lake Unit, Pacific West Region, who is working to develop the General Management Plan (GMP) for Tule Lake (see National Park Service Is “At The Ground Floor” In Planning For Tule Lake).
Although a meeting that lasted just a little over two hours is barely enough to base any sort of judgement on, an educated guess is that the Tule Lake staff is following in the footsteps of their colleagues at Manzanar, in terms of dedication and quality.
Indeed, I was impressed by my interaction with both Reynolds and Tamura, so much so that I asked them what inspired them to, in Reynolds’ case, work at Tule Lake, and in Tamura’s case, get in on the ground floor of the site’s development, and helping determine its long term future.
In Reynolds’ case, he got his start in the Japanese American Incarceration experience at Manzanar National Historic Site.
“My experience at Manzanar was from 2000 to 2004,” he said. “I was actually working at Manzanar and Death Valley National Park. Manzanar was fairly new in its development, at the time, and my role was in administration, but sort of watching the development there and, hopefully, learning from that.”
As much as he learned about the Japanese American Incarceration experience during his time at Manzanar, Reynolds said that his own experiences at a very distant unit of the National Park Service might be equally applicable to his work at Tule Lake.
“I didn’t know a whole lot about [the Japanese American Incarceration experience] prior to working at Manzanar, other than bits and pieces of it,” said Reynolds. “My last four years in American Samoa, working with the Samoan culture, and developing a very new National Park there, I’m finding is very applicable to this job.”
“My experience there was trying to work with the local, indigenous culture, and blend that with the bureaucracy that is the National Park Service, and develop a National Park that is effective in telling the Samoan story,” added Reynolds. “In this case, the principles are the same. We’re taking a complex, rich story that involves Japanese American culture, and the local agricultural culture of Northern California, and trying to tell that story to the American people who may not be aware of it.”
Tamura’s quest for knowledge about her own family’s stories serve as her inspiration, and builds passion into her work.
“I’m like an investigator, or an archeologist, because my family never talked about it,” she lamented. “My grandparents never said one word to me. It’s only in the past ten years, when I’ve actually been working on Tule Lake, that I’ve heard little snippets of our family’s history. It’s essentially gone—they never talked about it. It’s through this process that I can now re-create what their experiences could’ve been.”
“I had an uncle who was a renunciant, and why was that,” she asked. “That was buried for so long.”
Like Reynolds, Tamura was also involved at Manzanar before her work at Tule Lake, having worked on the team that developed their Cultural Landscape Report, published in 2006.
“I’ve been working on the camps for a long time,” said Tamura. “At every single [public] meeting [the Tule Lake GMP scoping sessions], I hear something new, so I’m learning a lot at each meeting.”
Tamura noted that there have been several stories told by Tule Lake survivors that stand out in her mind.
“There was a man who was talking about his own experiences at Tule Lake, and how he was essentially thinking that the United States was a place where he wanted to be, and he considered himself to be a loyal American citizen before World War II,” she said. “But then, he was incarcerated.”
“He was upset that he was unjustly incarcerated, and he answered the [loyalty] questionnaire, and then he was put in the jail,” she added. “It sounded like he may have been tortured. Those kinds of stories—they need to be part of the history.”
“We were at Hood River [Oregon], which was notorious for having the most racism [near Tule Lake]. We went there because all of that [Japanese American] community was sent to Tule Lake. People in that meeting talked about what it was like, and how Japanese American names were scratched off of memorials, and what it was like to be at Tule Lake, and then return. It was intense.”
Gann Matsuda, who writes from Culver City, California, is the Manzanar Committee’s Director, Communications and Social Media/Web Editor.
Unattributed views expressed in this story are those of the author, and are not necessarily those of the Manzanar Committee.
LEAD PHOTO: One of the small group discussions during a public meeting on July 24, 2013, in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo, where the National Park Service solicited community feedback regarding the development of the Tule Lake Unit of the World War II Valor In The Pacific National Monument. NPS staff member Anna Tamura, who is featured in this story, is shown here, top left. Photo: Gann Matsuda/Manzanar Committee.
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- Critical Tule Lake General Management Plan Meetings Scheduled
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From the moderator: This comment has been deleted.
The author has made some very serious allegations against National Park Service staff at Manzanar National Historic Site, Tule Lake, and at other NPS locations/offices, but has ignored requests to provide verifiable evidence to support his claims.
Without verifiable evidence, the allegations are baseless hearsay, and highly inflammatory. Because of that, they are not appropriate for publication on our blog.
The Manzanar Committee took no position on the claims made by the author.
Thank you for reading and publishing my comment, however brief that consideration may have been. My intention in not providing “verifiable evidence” for the allegations in my comment was to protect my sources, many of whom are rightfully terrified by the tyrannical power NPS management wields over their lives. (This is not unlike the tyrannical power the WRA and US government held over people of Japanese ancestry during WWII.)
The intent in my comment was to be “inflammatory” in the best sense of the word: provocative, incendiary, rousing, fomenting, seditious, subversive, and mutinous. When a dogmatic, unjust paradigm dominates a culture it is the duty of every thinking citizen to become an unyielding source of “inflammatory” criticism of that injustice. If I am not mistaken, you own organization was created by a group of such “inflammatory” speakers and thinkers who challenged the paradigms of the day with provocative, incendiary, and subversive concepts such as: the forced removal and false incarceration of Japanese Americans was unconstitutional, unjustified, and policies which were derived from racist origins. This was clearly an “inflammatory” statement for the majority of Americans throughout a significant portion of the 20th century. Unfortunately, an embarrassing percentage of Americans continue to hold to this racist paradigm well into the 21st century. I am a great advocate of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who also made “inflammatory” statements, such as the words I try to live by, written from the Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” For me, there is nothing more uniquely American than our right as citizens to push forward “inflammatory” ideas to challenge injustice and abuse of power.
I was also a bit confused by your statement that my “allegations are baseless hearsay.” What confuses me is that the foundation of this statement lies on the suggestion that I “ ignored requests to provide verifiable evidence to support [my] claims.” You see, I find this statement from your moderator “hearsay,” because I never received any request to provide verifiable evidence to support my claims. This type of circular reasoning discredits me for something I did not do. Does not this type of practice sound suspiciously similar to Earl Warren’s preemptive actions against all people of Japanese ancestry in California based on the absurd reasoning that lack of any evidence of sabotage and espionage by the Japanese Americans was proof that they were planning to implement such actions in the immediate future? I am doubled confused, because I thought we, as a nation, had evolved beyond these types of circular, groundless convictions.
I would also caution you and your organization against making arguments to dismiss “hearsay” evidence. All of the evidence that the people of Japanese ancestry experienced emotional and psychological injury and distress as a result of the removal and internment experience is, in fact, “hearsay.” There are neither verifiable evidence for nor physical scars of such injuries. It is indeed unfortunate that we live in a society where victims of abuse and hostility are additionally fraught with the burden of “proof” of their injuries while the perpetrators of such injustice can hide their actions behind such legalities as claims of “hearsay.” This type of injustice is epidemic within the National Park Service (NPS). (Please see the reference to that claim provided below.)
If your lack of requesting the verifiable information upon which I based my comment to your blog was an oversight, please allow me to provide you with the some of that requested information now:
1) If you would like to know more about NPS anti-union activities, particularly at Manzanar, please contact:
Laborers Local 220 representative Douglass Kessler firstname.lastname@example.org
2) For the evidence of the general malaise within the NPS caused by dysfunctional and abusive managers, please look to Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (since 2004, the NPS has hovered in the bottom-most rankings for Employee Satisfaction results). The National Parks Traveler does a fair job of outlining the generalities of the NPS data. To fully comprehend how damning the survey results are to the policies and actions of the predatory NPS management, however, I will refer you to the data website for the survey, which will require from you a certain familiarity with spreadsheet files to obtain the NPS results
I would also be pleased to refer you to the NPS commissioned report: “National Park Service Employees Opinions About Factors Contributing To Workplace Satisfaction Research Findings conducted on behalf of the Center for Park Management by Peter D. Hart Research Associates, Inc. December 22, 2008,” but alas, I cannot find it on line. I have seen this report and how damning it is to NPS management. I would suspect that the report has been buried. Please take time to seek this report out; if I find it I will send you a link and/or post a PDF on my blog site.
3) For additional information about the dysfunction and criminal misuse of power by NPS managers, all the way to the top of the agency, I would like to refer you to Paul Berkowitz and his break-thru book, The Case of the Indian Trader. I would also suggest that you contact him directly, as I have, for a deeper understanding as to how all of the accountability programs within the NPS have been co-opted by management to protect hostile, abusive, and criminal managers from staff “allegations [that] are baseless hearsay, and highly inflammatory.“ (I love your rhetoric here—I have been shown numerous copies of “confidential” NPS findings for grievance against management, which were dismissed using the exact same verbiage. Your “moderator” does not work for the NPS; does she?) I would also refer you to Paul Berkowitz and his book for more information on the “inflammatory” statement I make above about the manipulation of information by NPS managers to protect dysfunctional management.
I can provide many more verifications for my claims. In the interest of brevity, however, I will end here and make that additional information available to you and your readers on my blog.
WIthout offering any evidence with your initial posting, we could only consider your claims to be hearsay. In any case, your claims regarding labor and other issues within the National Park Service are not germane to the topic of this blog post. I suggest you post your claims on your blog. If we post an entry dealing with similar issues, at that point, your comments would be appropriate.