S. 2412

Tule Lake National Historic Site Establishment Act of 2015

 

STATEMENT OF DR. STEPHANIE TOOTHMAN, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, CULTURAL RESOURCES, PARTNERSHIPS, AND SCIENCE, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SENATE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, CONCERNING S. 2412, TO ESTABLISH THE TULE LAKE NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE IN THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

JUNE 15, 2016

Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to present the Department of the Interior’s views on S. 2412, to establish the Tule Lake National Historic Site in the State of California, and for other purposes. 

The Department supports S. 2412.

S. 2412 would establish the Tule Lake National Historic Site as a stand-alone unit of the National Park Service, separating it from the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. It would include portions of the Tule Lake Segregation Center National Historic Landmark and Camp Tulelake. 

The World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, including the Tule Lake Unit, was created by a presidential proclamation on December 5, 2008. The monument consists of nine sites in Alaska, California, and Hawaii.  Eight of the nine sites in the monument are World War II battle sites that memorialize battles on American soil and actual engagement with foreign enemies. This is in stark contrast to the purpose of the Tule Lake site, which is to preserve, study, and interpret the history and setting of the incarceration and later segregation of nikkei, first-generation Japanese Americans, at Tule Lake during World War II.  

Since designation, many former detainees have expressed concerns about whether the name of the monument, “World War II Valor in the Pacific,” is appropriate for a site aimed at remembering the grave injustice done to more than 120,000 Japanese Americans nationwide during the war.  Additionally, public input from over 30 public scoping meetings held in western states in 2013 for the park’s general management plan revealed strong public opinion to detach the Tule Lake Unit from World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. The rationale expressed that the name is inappropriate, and even offensive, for an internment site to be associated with wartime valor. 

The Tule Lake Segregation Center, which was opened in May 1942, was the largest of the 10 War Relocation Authority camps. More than 29,000 Japanese Americans from western Washington, Oregon, and northern California were interned there. Its population made up a quarter of the 120,000 people affected by World War II Japanese American internment. Tule Lake also imprisoned the largest number of individuals categorized as disloyal, and was subsequently converted to a maximum-security segregation center.  Due to turmoil and strife, Tule Lake was the last camp to close, on March 28, 1946.

Presently the park includes Camp Tulelake, where there are several historic structures once used to imprison Japanese Americans and detain German and Italian prisoners of war; the Peninsula, an iconic landscape to those who lived there and where detainees tended livestock that supported the self-contained camp; and the Segregation Center, which encompasses the  original segregation center's stockade, the War Relocation Authority motor pool, the post engineer's yard and motor pool, and a small part of the military police compound.

The Tule Lake Unit is currently administered jointly by the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge) and is managed in accordance with both NPS and USFWS laws and regulations. This bill would not affect existing land rights or alter the site’s current management scheme or operational costs.

Establishing the Tule Lake National Historic Site will enable us to increase focus on understanding the high price paid by Japanese Americans on the home front during World War II.  It would elevate the recognition of this site to be consistent with our other Japanese relocation centers -- Manzanar National Historic Site and Minidoka National Historic Site -- as stand-alone parks in the National Park System.  And, it is in keeping with the public’s and former detainees’ expressed opinions on the matter.

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my testimony.  I would be happy to answer any questions you or other members of the subcommittee may have.

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