Today marks the launch of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
As we look forward to celebrating Asian and Pacific Island culture in America, we begin today with some good news about federal legislation - proposed and passed - that will provide much-needed resources for the preservation of sites of Japanese internment during World War II.
In March, the federal Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009 appropriated $1 million for the preservation of Japanese American confinement sites. Administered by the National Park Service, this funding will support the interpretation, protection and restoration of these historic places.
Also in March, President Barack Obama signed into law the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009 , which includes over 160 bills related to public lands, national parks, historic sites and battlefields, conservation and wilderness designation, national heritage areas and corridors, and historic trails.
Receiving broad, bipartisan support in both the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate, this milestone legislation establishes a memorial in Kalaupapa National Historical Park, which is located on the island of Moloka’i in Hawai’i. The primary story being told at Kalaupapa National Historical Park is that of the forced isolation from 1866 until 1969 of people from Hawai'i afflicted with Hansen's disease (leprosy).
Also included in the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009 is the authorization of a special resource study of the Tule Lake Segregation Center in Modoc County, California, to determine the suitability and feasibility of establishing a new unit of the National Park System. Tule Lake is the site of one of the largest and most controversial Japanese American internment camps. It is also the only camp that was turned into a high-security segregation center. In December 2008, President George Bush declared the site part of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument.
On April 23, Senator Dan Inouye of Hawai’i introduced legislation to have the Secretary of the Interior conduct a study to determine if internment camp sites in Hawai’i are eligible for designation as National Park sites. The legislation focuses on sites identified in a report completed in 2007 by the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai’i, including Honouliuli Gulch, Sand Island, the U.S. Immigration Station on Oahu, the Kīlauea Military Camp on the Big Island, Haiku Camp and Wailuku County Jail on Maui, and the Kalāheo Stockade and Waialua County Jail on Kauai. The National Trust for Historic Preservation partially funded archaeological studies at Honouliuli Gulch in 2008, and recently signed a letter of support to Senator Inouye (with six cooperating organizations) in favor of the new legislation.
- Denise Ryan & Elaine Stiles
Denise Ryan is the program manager for public lands policy at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Elaine Stiles is a program officer in the Western Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
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