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Federal Grants To Help Preserve History Of WWII Japanese Internment Sites

University of Idaho Digital Initiatives
Five men playing board game in barracks at the Kooskia Internment Camp. ca. 1944.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, U.S. government officials rounded up Japanese Americans and sent them to harsh, ill-equipped camps. Now, the National Park Service has announced $3 million in new grants to help preserve that important history.

Stacey Camp, an associate professor at the University of Idaho, is leading an effort to survey the Kooskia Internment site with help from federal Park Service grants.

Credit Jessica Goodwin
A rock carving about the size of a hand was found at the Kooskia site in Idaho that was once used as an internment camp for Japanese Americans.

On one artifact survey last year, Camp said she and her university students crawled around on their hands and knees in the dust and heat for hours. Then, one of them called out after finding a carving made out of a rock.

Carved into the rock, is what appears to be an otter or a dog. It was left in a site where people at Kooskia used to throw their trash. 

“Probably because it’s broken, but it’s hard to say why people threw some of that artwork away,” Camp said. “Maybe it was a way of ending that life now that they were free and let out.”

Credit University of Idaho Digital Initiatives
University of Idaho Digital Initiatives
A view of View of camp buildings at the Kooskia Internment Camp. ca. 1944.

Camp's team also found Japanese pottery, gaming pieces and medicine bottles. After several excavations, Camp’s work now involves cleaning, researching and cataloging those artifacts.

A photography exhibit, called "Uprooted: Japanese American Farm Labor Camps During World War II," features period photographs taken at the Nyssa camp and similar camps in Rupert, Shelley and Twin Falls, Idaho. Many Japanese decedents and immigrants chose to work on these farms instead of living in camps. The show runs through Dec. 12 at the Four Rivers Center in Ontario, Oregon.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.