Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Wednesday gave the designation to a World War II-era Japanese-American internment camp near Parker and to one of the earliest human settlement sites in the Americas, near present-day Sierra Vista.
The Poston Elementary School Unit 1 site in La Paz County and the Murray Springs Clovis Site in Cochise County were among 26 national historic landmarks named Wednesday.
The Poston site was known as the Colorado River Relocation Center in World War II, when it was an internment camp for thousands of Japanese Americans who were forced from their homes on the West Coast and relocated by the federal government during the war. It was the second of 10 such camps in the country and, for several years, the largest.
The relocation programs were carried out in the name of national security in the months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Documents nominating the site for historic designation note that such camps are significant because they "reflected wartime hysteria, racist sentiment and the military's professed inability to gauge the loyalty of Japanese Americans to the United States."
"The lives of Japanese Americans at the center and the impact of the OIA (Office of Indian Affairs, which ran the Poston site) plans on the people and the site are represented by the remaining historic resources," the nominating document said.
There were originally three Poston camps, but only one remains.
The La Paz County camp is the only relocation center that still has an above ground complex of elementary school buildings from the war years, which were built with adobe bricks manufactured on site by the citizens who were held there. The land is on the Colorado River Indian reservation in western Arizona.