We are actively working to preserve the physical artifacts as well as the stories and memories of life in one of America's concentration camps located at Poston, Arizona. It was named "Poston" or the "Colorado River Relocation Center", located on the Colorado River Indian Reservation during World War II. The Poston Community Alliance is a 501(c)(3)non-profit group.
The committee for the Fall 2011 National Park System Advisory Board Landmarks will meet on November 8-10 at the Finn Forum, 2nd Floor, Ray Group International, located at 900 15th Street NW, Washington, DC 20005.
Earl and Ruth (Nomura) Tanbara played a prominent role in the resettlement of Japanese Americans in Minnesota following World War II and in the foundation of several organizations serving Japanese Americans.
Ruth Nomura was born in 1908 in Portland, Oregon and was one of the first Nisei born in Oregon, and the first Nisei woman from Portland to enroll in what is now Oregon State University, earning a B.S. in Home Economics.
In 1926, as a winner of an essay contest for Nisei students, she traveled by steamship to Japan. She wrote that this trip “enriched my life and gave me a deep appreciation of Japan, its people, arts and civilization. It encouraged me to study the language, flower arrangement, holiday festivals, the tea ceremony, daily customs, Japanese cooking and serving, music, arts and crafts, particularly pottery, painting and calligraphy.”
In 1940, she authored “Japanese Food Recipes”, containing complete menus, vocabulary and sketches to illustrate cutting, serving and arranging of foods. This is one of the early books on Japanese cooking in English, which helped introduce Japanese recipes and methods to the Nisei. She married Earl Tanbara on September 16, 1935 in Portland, Oregon.
Earl Kazumi Tanbara was born in Pleasanton, California in 1907 to Miyota and Takeno Tanbara, Japanese immigrants from Okayama Ken, Japan. Earl graduated from Los Gatos High School, California, in 1923 and received a B.A. degree from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1927. Earl played basketball, baseball, and tennis while attending the University of California. The Japanese American press called himthe “heavy hitter” for the Nikkei San Jose Asahi baseball team that toured Japan in the 1930’s. In March of 1930, he was selected to play a preseason exhibition game against the major league Pittsburgh Pirates. He was an accomplished contract bridge player, winning a San Francisco Examiner contract bridge tournament in 1933.He worked for the Dollar Steamship Company from 1928 until 1939 when it was transferred to the U.S. government and was the predecessor company of the American President Lines. He eventually served as the Director of Marketing for Dollar Steamship Company. Earl and Ruth traveled extensively around the world for Dollar Steamship Company.
When World War II began, Earl and Ruth Tanbara were living in Berkeley, California. They relocated to a farm in Reedley, California, with his parents in an attempt to avoid wartime internment. The boundaries for relocating individuals of Japanese ancestry were later moved further inland and they faced relocation. A U.S. Army officer who visited the farm to inform them of the need to move to an assembly center, was a former Portland high school classmate of Ruth's. He offered them an opportunity to relocate East if they had friends who would accept them. They contacted friends in Minneapolis and they were placed on a military train to the Twin Cities. His parents, Miyota and Takeno Tanbara chose not to go with them and were evacuated to the Poston, Arizona internment camp block 308-14-D .Later,Earl's sister,Grace Kurihara and son Thomas M. Kurihara, who were evacuated to the Pomona Assembly Center, them moved to Heart Mountain internment camp, were able to transfer to Poston block 308-14-A in December of 1942.
Earl and Ruth Tanbara assisted over a 100 internees to leave camp and find a place in the Twin Cities. They also were active in placing a number of Japanese Americans in work situations in the Twin Cities during and after WWII.
During the registration process for moving to a relocation center, the Provost Marshall of the U.S. Army gave Earl and Ruth the option to go as volunteers to the eastern or midwestern U. S. to help build community acceptance and resettle Japanese American internees from the relocation centers. They chose to come to St. Paul,Minnesota, partly because Ruth's brother, Paul Nomura, was enrolled in the Military Intelligence Service Language School at Camp Savage.
Ruth wrote, “Our main assignment was to build community acceptance. So each week, Earl and I were invited to different church groups, youth groups, schools, colleges and farming communities to give talks on Japanese Americans. ... As there were only 10 Japanese families living in St. Paul before the war, many Minnesotans were not acquainted with Americans citizens of Japanese extraction.”
Many people wrote to the Tanbaras from the internment camps wanting to resettle in Minnesota. “In the beginning, we helped by opening our small home to families and students, but the numbers increased beyond our expectations. It became necessary to form a resettlement committee, and the Council of Human Relations was organized. Serving on the committee were social workers, board members of the YWCA, the YMCA, the International Institute and Family Service Agency, church leaders, college faculty members, and interested community people.”
Warren Burger, a St. Paul attorney who would become Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, was the first Council chairman. The Tanbaras also helped establish the St. Paul Resettlement Committee, which managed a hotel for evacuees from camp, and provided temporary housing, meals and assistance adjusting to Minnesota winters. They also helped evacuees obtain employment, continue their college education, and find retailers and services who would accept Japanese American customers.
At the end of the war, Earl and Ruth decided to stay in Minnesota. In 1953, Ruth received her Master's degree in Home Economics from the University of Minnesota.She worked from 1942-1972 as Adult Education Director and International YWCA Program Director for the St. Paul YWCA. Ruth had directed the participation of Japanese Americans in the first Festival of Nations in 1947, working with many volunteers. She was a charter member in 1972 when Japan America Society was formed and served on its board of directors. She was one of the founding members of the St. Paul-Nagasaki Sister City Committee, which began in 1955, and served as president of the board 1966-1972.
Ruth was a longtime member of Unity Unitarian Church in St. Paul, where she arranged flowers for Sunday morning services for more than 35 years. Her other pastimes included travel, teaching flower arrangement and gourmet cooking, and various arts and crafts.The Japanese Garden at the YWCA on Kellogg Blvd was named in her honor and she later retired from the YWCA as Director of Adult Education. Ruth Tanbara passed away on January 4, 2008, at the age 100. Her husband, Earl Tanbara died in 1974.
Paul Murai, owner-M&M Ranch, was born in Texas in 1946, and a third-generation Japanese-American farmer. During World War II the Motoi Murai family was interned in Poston, Arizona (block 13-8-C). Following their release in September 1945, the Murai family resettled in Natalia, Texas.
When Paul was 2 years old, his family moved to Santa Ana and started a farm growing row crops. As a child, Paul worked on the farm. He attended California State University, Long Beach and is a graduate of the California Agricultural Leadership Education Program. He returned to his family farm in 1968 to work full time.
During the next 25 years he helped transform the business into a 200-acre entity with growing, packing, cooling and shipping operations. In 1993 he started his own 100-acre farm in Irvine, where he raises strawberries and row crop vegetables. He is a member of the California Strawberry Commission and has served for four years on the California Tomato Commission, and past president of the Orange County Farm Bureau.
Photographer's project carries personal touch August 5, 2010 By Dominique Fong, Voices As a child, photographer Stan Honda listened to his father’s stories about imprisonment at the Poston, Arizona internment camp 3. Honda heard his father, aunts and uncles reminisce about Thanksgiving and Christmas meals and the sand that incessantly trickled into the living area, memories that moved him to embark on a personal project to understand his family’s past and a shameful part of American history. “They talked a lot about it,” said Honda, a sansei, or third-generation Japanese American. “They talked about the harsh conditions, how there’s just sand that came into the barracks, which drove some of them literally crazy. There was sand through the floorboards and dust everywhere, 24 hours a day.” Over a period of five years, Honda, now 51, and his older sister journeyed to 9 of 10 internment camps, where thousands of Japanese Americans had been incarcerated during World War II under an executive order signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 1994, Honda came across an announcement from the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) that a group of volunteers planned to dismantle barracks at the Heart Mountain, Wyoming, internment camp and reassemble them at the museum parking lot. Honda, who had been working for Newsday in New York at the time, thought it would be a timely opportunity to travel to a camp he had not yet visited and snap photos of the museum project. “It was something that would probably happen once, and it probably wouldn’t happen again,” Honda said. Honda and the volunteers traveled halfway across the country that fall, eager to see the barracks that were still in good condition. A preservation architect accompanied the group and advised them on how to take carefully take apart the interior and exteriors of the fragments so that the relics could be reconnected without being damaged. While the volunteers, some of whom had once been held at Heart Mountain, took the barracks and sent them off to Los Angeles on a flatbed truck, Honda was busy taking pictures. “Everything caught my eye,” Honda said. “Historically, I think it was important to document the project because of the rarity of a whole barrack and the volunteers who were there.” Some of Honda’s photos were included in a book by Sharon Yamato, who had also attended the museum project to interview people and document the process. Honda, Yamato and several of the volunteers reunited Monday at a JANM exhibit named after Yamato’s book, “Moving Walls: Preserving the Barracks of America’s Concentration Camps,” where Honda led a presentation about the project. Yamato said that the tearing down of the barracks was a breakthrough for her work, and she wrote an article for the Los Angeles Times about the experience. She admired the way that Honda remained discreet about taking photos with the Leica black and white film camera he carried. “He’s very low-key,” said Yamato. “He’s always in the background. He captures things without you even noticing that he’s taking pictures.” Yamato’s favorite photo is a portrayal of her cousin, a shadowy figure among the play of light and dark hues. She appreciated that Honda was able to encapsulate on camera how men, laboring and sweating even in their 60s and 70s, were so emotionally invested. “He captures personality, not just scenery or background,” said Yamato. “He really captures the essence of people.” Honda said he even braved his fear of heights to climb to the top of a building, where from his bird’s-eye view he could see over the camp. Honda learned photography in high school and worked for the campus newspaper at the University of California, San Diego. He later worked for the San Diego Union-Tribune and the Los Angeles Times. In 1989, he moved to New York, where he has for the past 7 years worked as a staff photographer for Agence France-Presse. “I think telling people’s stories and communicating visually what is happening in the world is the real job of photojournalism,” said Honda. “Showing viewers how people live.” Honda’s father, Masami Honda, was 24 when he entered the Poston camp block 330-6-C. The oldest son in the family, the elder Honda would travel by train to visit his own father, [Hachirozaemon Honda] who was a first-generation immigrant arrested by the FBI and detained in a different location [Department of Justice internment camp at Santa Fe, New Mexico]. Masami Honda (Poston block 330-6-C) was also the youth sports director in his camp and directed sports teams, including baseball. His openness about his experiences were a way of educating his children about a period in American history when racial prejudice against Japanese Americans was supported by the government. Stan visited the Poston site three times, once with his father and two sisters at a ceremony, a reunion with friends from the war. Honda nearly reached his goal of visiting all 10 camps. The final one, the Gila River War Relocation camp, was too difficult to access because it is on an Indian reservation, Honda said. Honda said he was glad to have participated in the JANM project, which is still on public display today. “To me, it seemed like it was a unique project,” said Honda. “I don’t think anything like this had been done before in the Japanese American community.”
On March 18, 1942, President Roosevelt created the War Relocation Authority (WRA) and appointed Milton Eisenhower, Director in the in the Department of Agriculture. Earlier that year, Vice President Henry Wallace a cabinet meeting recommended President Roosevelt appoint John Collier as Director of the War Relocation Authority, in charge of the Japanese-American internment, "because of his expertise in community living". (1) However, John Collier was Commissioner of Indian Affairs under President Roosevelt, and Milton Eisenhower was appointed Director of the WRA.
John Collier was in charge of nearly 20,000 Japanese-American inmates incarcerated at the Colorado River Indian reservation near Poston, Arizona. Eventually, Collier had afalling out with Eisenhower's successor, Dillon Seymour Myer, who became WRA Director on June 17, 1942. Dillon S. Myer envisioned the eventual dispersal of all Japanese-American prisoners throughout America to prevent their return to the "Little Tokyos" on the West Coast. (2)
However, John Collier had his own plans to use the Japanese-Americans at Poston in "social experiments." It involved converting 25,000 acres of land into productive farm land that would produce surplus food to feed American troops. Collier told the internees that this experiment in communal living could raise their morale and restore their faith in democracy, and at the same time it would demonstrate to other Americans "the efficiency and splendor of the cooperative way of living". (3)
John Collier envisioned Poston becoming a "social science research laboratory", which might yield "scientific results" which could then be applied to "American administration of former Japanese islands in the Pacific Ocean." (4)
Dillon S. Meyer
A Hearst newspaper article dated March 23, 1942, alleged that the evacuees would be paid more than American soldiers "fighting the country's battles overseas." Milton Eisenhower agreed that the evacuees' income should not exceed the soldiers' base pay. ($21/month.) The base pay for privates increased to $50/month, however, the evacuee pay scale remained: $12 for unskilled labor, $16 for skilled labor, and $19 for professional employees. The wages in the WRA camps were an insult to many evacuees. For example, a non-Japanese librarian working in the camp earned $167/month while her evacuee staff received no more than $16/month. (5)
Milton Eisenhower had a plan to use the Japanese-American prisoners as a segregated labor force outside the camps. Following his appointment as WRA Director, a program for the employment of Japanese-Americans was developed and a meeting was held at Salt Lake City of April 7, 1942 with officials of 10 Western states.
Milton Eisenhower's program included:
1. Public works, such as land development
2. Agricultural production within relocation areas
3. Manufacturing within relocation areas
4. Private employment
5. Private resettlement.
At the conference, Milton Eisenhower made an attempt to integrate the Japanese-Americans into agricultural work projects outside the designated military zones in the Western states. After he presented this plan to the governors of 10 Western states, they all categorically rejected his plea to allow Japanese-Americans to relocate in their states, with the exception of Governor Carr of Colorado. The Western governors felt that if the Japanese-Americans population represented a danger to the West coast, they also would be a danger to the other states as well. Basically, the governors wanted nothing to do with the "Japanese problem." After this failure to create segregated work projects, permanent detention camps became the only solution until such time as new locations outside the military zones, could be found for the tens of thousands of Japanese-American families. (6)
John Collier devoted 25 years to working for the Indian and was alarmed by the general trends of U.S. Indian policy in the late 1940's and 1950's. He was concerned that many reforms instituted while he was Commissioner of Indian Affairs were being abandoned and that treaties were in danger of cancelled. Collier and the National Indian Institute were flooded in legislation which threatened Indian treaty rights, lands, and civil liberties. Perhaps the most serious threat, was the "termination" bills that were part of the government's policy in the 1950's to end federal responsibilities for Indian tribes. The Institute worked hard to modify or defeat a number of these bills and, in addition, proposed legislation of its own. One bill proposed by the Institute would have required the consent of Indian tribes before any change was made in their relationship with the federal government.
John Collier and the National Indian Institute also followed the activities of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He was strongly opposed to the policies of Dillon S. Meyer, Commissioner of Indian Affairs in the early 1950's and a leading proponent of the "termination" program that were part of the government's policy to end federal responsibilities for Indian tribes.Collier and Meyer were in a dispute over proposed attorney contract regulations that would have restricted Indian tribal rights to freely retain attorneys of their choice.
Primary sources: Francis Feeley. The Idealogical Uses of JAs in US Concentration Camps".
Available at: http://www.paradigme.com/sources/SOURCES-PDF/Pages%20de%20Sources04-1-3.pdf
1. Kenneth Philip. John Collier's Crusade for Indian Reform. (Tucson, AZ., 1977) pp. 208-209.
2. Ibid., p. 209.
5. Tetsuden Kashima. Personal Justice Denied:Report of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, pp. 166-167, and Lane Ryo Hirabayashi . Inside An American Concentration Camp, p. 39, footnote #4.
6. "A Chronology of Evacuation and Relocation" in Quarterly Report of the War Relocation Authority. March 18-June 30, 1942. Government Printing Office. p. 3.