Editor’s Note; In the coming weeks, the college students who participated in our annual program, Katari: Keeping Japanese American Stories Alive, will share their thoughts about this year’s program.
Katari, a program of the Manzanar Committee and the Manzanar National Historic Site, is in its fifth year, working to give young people some of the tools they’ll need to help others learn about the forced removal of over 120,000 Japanese/Japanese Americans from their homes and their unjust incarceration in American concentration camps, and other confinement sites, during World War II.
In this installment, Megan Matsumoto of the Cal State Fullteron Nikkei Student Union shared how the program impacted her.
This year marks the 80th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, and this year, I participated in my third Katari program, and it never fails to teach me more about Manzanar and myself. The importance of the program also continues to grow each year.
Since the 2021 Manzanar At Dusk program, I have done a lot of self-reflection on what this program means to me, and to others. in the community—it allows students to hear from former incarcerees about what life was like before, during, and after camp.
One of the items on my bucket list since joining the Cal State Fullerton Nikkei Student Union has been to visit all ten of the War Relocation Authority camps, and until the last week of January 2022, Manzanar was the only camp that I had visited. But earlier this year, I had the privilege of also visiting Poston, and I also attempted to visit Gila River.
While at Poston, I was a little shocked to see what the memorial for the camp is; there is no interpretive center or driving tour of the grounds like there are at Manzanar. It was an area with two informational structures. When I was reading all the information about Poston, I was shocked to see that there were about 17,000 people who were incarcerated there during World War II.
Visiting Poston really showed me the amount of work and dedication it took to fight for a site like Manzanar with the interpretive center, the work to restore the site, the replication of the barracks, and the cemetery in the back where people are able to pay their respects to all the lives that were forever changed by camp.
Although I was not able to visit the location of the Gila River camp because a permit was needed to do so, I was still able to learn a lot from my visit, as it highlighted the importance of having and maintaining a healthy relationship with surrounding communities.
During Katari, along with hearing about the Japanese American experience during the time of the war, we also get to learn about the indigenous people of the area. The Paiute and Shoshone communities near where Manzanar is located work with the Manzanar Committee to create a well-rounded Katari program where the students are able to learn about what history the land holds for both communities. At Gila River, on the other hand, a permit is needed to access the camp because, understandably, the indigenous people of the area are reclaiming their land.
The three camps I have visited, and the Katari program, have taught me the importance of sharing your family stories, along with your own personal stories.
23-year-old Megan Matsumoto, a native of Brea, California, where she currently resides. She is a recent graduate of California State University, Fullerton (CSUF), where she is studied psychology. Matsumoto currently serves as a member of the 2022 Manzanar At Dusk organizing committee.
LEAD PHOTO: Megan Matsumoto. Photo courtesy Megan Matsumoto..
The views expressed in this story are those of the author, and are not necessarily those of the Manzanar Committee.
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