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Nikkei Classroom Presentation


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The following is a presentation on the experience of Japanese-American incarceration during World War II in the Pacific Northwest, created by Kyle Stephens and Peter Gallagher in conjunction with the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center. Using interviews, archived photographs, and testimonials, the lesson guides students through the experience of a Japanese-American incarcerated during the War, and the government's justification for doing so. Engaging questions and points for discussion are placed throughout the presentation.

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Nikkei Classroom Presentation

  1. 1. By Kyle Stephens and Peter Gallagher with help from the Oregon Nikkei Center and the Densho Digital Archive.
  2. 2. • What reasons does the U.S. Government give for relocation and incarceration of Japanese-American citizens? • At one point, the narrator calls the process of incarceration a “migration” of Japanese-Americans. How does his language adhere to or differ from your own understanding of a migration? • The narrator repeatedly brings up the sacrifice the Japanese-American citizens had to make for their country. What sacrifices do they discuss? Were these sacrifices voluntary, or compulsory? • The narrator draws a parallel toward the end of the video between Axis powers in their treatment of Americans and the American government’s treatment of Japanese. What, if any, problems do you see in the comparison of the two?
  3. 3. President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942, two months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The Order would begin the gradual removal of Japanese-American citizens to temporary relocation centers, from which they would be sent to permanent incarceration camps.  Read through a copy of Executive Order 9066, then discuss the following questions:  • How would you describe the language of E.O. 9066? Is it specific, or vague in its outline of the steps to be taken? • What reason does the President give for the signing of the order? • Given what you know about World War II up to this point, where might the relocation take place? What would be the national defense materials the President hopes to protect?
  4. 4.    The Portland Assembly Center was built on the grounds of a former stockyard on the banks of the Columbia River. The living quarters at the Assembly Center were built on the same grounds as the stockyard, which resulted in an incessant foul smell of manure, huge black flies, and almost no personal privacy. Life at the Assembly Center was terrible. The smell, lack of privacy, and uncertainty of the situation left many JapaneseAmericans feeling violated. The Assembly Center was in use from May of 1942 until September of the same year, when families boarded old railroad cars over the course of a week and left for permanent incarceration. Most of the inhabitants of the Portland Assembly Center left for Minidoka Incarceration Camp on the Idaho border.
  5. 5. Interior view of the Portland Assembly Center, courtesy of Oregon Nikkei Endowment.
  6. 6. Aerial view of the Portland Assembly Center. Courtesy of Densho.
  7. 7.  Interview: George Nakata Interview  After watching the video, discuss these questions in groups or as a class: • How did Executive Order 9066 affect Nakata’s family? • Nakata asks his daughter at one point if she could fit all she needed in to a single backpack or suitcase. Make a list of the things you would include in a bag you took to incarceration, then share that list with your classmates.
  8. 8.  After the Portland Assembly Center, many Japanese-Americans were sent to the Minidoka War Relocation Center, a concentration camp located in Jerome County, Southern Idaho. There, they would spend the remainder of the war.  The Minidoka War Relocation Center was created in WWII for Americans of Japanese descent.  Minidoka housed over 9,000 JapaneseAmericans.  Located in Southern Idaho (Jerome County)
  9. 9.  What kind of response would you expect from a student at Minidoka when asked to write a paper about American Democracy, the Constitution, Rights for citizens in America, etc.?
  10. 10. Miyatake – “American Democracy and What It Means to Me”  How did this interview differ from your expectations, if at all? Why?  Henry
  11. 11.  Question #27 asked: • Are you willing to serve in the armed forces of the United States on combat duty, wherever ordered?  Question #28 asked: • Will you swear unqualified allegiance to the United States of America and faithfully defend the United States from any and all attack by foreign or domestic forces, and forswear any form of allegiance to the Japanese Emperor or any other foreign government, power, or organization?
  12. 12.  Do you think Question #27 or #28 could have caused confusion for the person taking the questionnaire? Why or Why not?  What do you think the consequences were for saying Yes or No on #27? #28?
  13. 13. Akutsu Interview – Answers to the socalled “loyalty questions”  Richard Sakurai Interview – Answers to the so-called “loyalty questions”  How did this interview differ from your expectations, if at all? Why?  Jim
  14. 14. The preceding slides attempted, through interviews, documents, and images, to paint a portrait of the trials of Portland’s JapaneseAmerican citizens as they experienced mass incarceration under E.O. 9066.  As a class or in groups, reflect on the following questions:  • How did the incarceration evolve over the war, from the Portland Relocation Center to Minidoka Relocation Center? • What do you think were some of the lasting economic, social, and psychological effects of incarceration? • What are some modern parallels you might draw between the events of World War II and today?
  15. 15.  The Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center. Please visit the Oregon Nikkei Center in Portland’s historic Japantown (present-day Chinatown) at 121 NW 2nd Ave, Portland, OR 97209. Contact the Center for special rates and accommodations for classes.  The Densho Digital Archive  Professor Peter Pappas  The students at the University of Portland in Social Studies Methods.