Lewis County Historical Museum to Host Japanese American Internment Memorial Day Event


June 1 – The Lewis County Historical Museum is hosting a Memorial Day event for the 80th anniversary of the Japanese American internment at 2 p.m. Saturday at the museum, 599 NW Front St., Chehalis.

The event aims to honor local residents of Japanese descent who were forced to board a US Army train at the Chehalis Train Depot 80 years ago for internment that lasted throughout the Second World War.

Eighty-six Lewis County residents left the depot on June 2, 1942, bound for Tule Lake, California.

“Residents of the Greater Lewis County area were among the first of more than 100,000 people of Japanese ancestry exiled from the West Coast,” according to the event’s Facebook page.

The exile came as a result of Executive Order 9066 issued by President Franklin Roosevelt on Feb. 19, 1942, museum executive director Jason Mattson told The Chronicle. This Executive Order was followed by Civil Exclusion Order No. 1 on March 24, 1942.

“Allowed only to take what they could – and not knowing where they were going, how long they were away, or if they would ever return – families from Adna, Bay Center, Centralia, Chehalis, Long Beach, Nahcotta , Onalaska, Raymond, South Bend and Raymond boarded the train on June 2, 1942, for their final destination at a War Relocation Authority incarceration camp in Tule Lake, California,” the event message reads. .

Mattson said the internment happened “because of fear and racism and a lot of ignorance on the part of, essentially, white people in the country.”

According to Mattson, the internment sent “everyone of Japanese descent to these concentration camps, basically”.

Interned Americans were placed in poor conditions in barracks with canvas walls that they had to share with other families with no privacy, Mattson said. With rudimentary latrines and food devoid of any real nutritional value, children were placed in school-like institutions and given the basics of playtime, but armed guards kept Japanese Americans from leaving. the establishment, which was surrounded by barbed wire. fences.

“I think in Tule Lake there were uprisings that didn’t happen anywhere else because the conditions were so bad. They had had enough,” Mattson said.

The Remembrance Day program will highlight the families who have been affected, their accomplishments and their impact on the Lewis County community. During the program, the names of everyone traveling from Chehalis Rail Depot to Tule Lake will be read aloud.

There will also be an exhibit with an interactive kiosk from the Japanese American Museum of Oregon as well as a documentary.

Admission to the event is free. However, donations will be accepted during regular museum hours on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

With doors opening at 2 p.m. for the exhibit, the Remembrance Day program itself will begin at 2:30 p.m.

Mattson said he organized the event “so that it won’t be forgotten and hopefully not repeated.”

“There was so much propaganda and fearmongering,” Mattson said. “This is something that should never happen again.”

He said honoring the internees, many of whom had never set foot in Japan, was of utmost importance.

“A lot of history is just forgotten or whitewashed,” he said. “It’s important to let people know and make sure they know the details of what happened.”

If we don’t remember, he said, history can repeat itself, and may already be repeating itself to some degree, Mattson said.

“It’s kind of still ongoing,” he said. “Like (with) a lot of immigrants coming from Mexico. The conditions probably aren’t as bad, but there’s still (the government) caging people in, basically.”

For more information, contact the Lewis County Historical Museum at 360-748-0831 or email director@lewiscountymuseum.org.

For more information on Tule Lake Internment Camp, visit https://www.nps.gov/tule/index.htm, https://www.tulelake.org/history Where https://encyclopedia.densho.org/Tule_Lake/.

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Patrick F. Williams