Home > Advocacy > Threatened Sites > Minidoka

What's happening at Minidoka

Anna Webb, Idaho Statesman

September 20, 2007 - Few tangible remnants of the Minidoka Internment Camp remain, said Dan Everhart of Preservation Idaho.

The few that do include a potato cellar built by internees and a memorial garden in tribute to the Japanese American soldiers who served and died in the war.

The site marks an important era of American history nonetheless. The National Park Service has done extensive research there and is poised to restore and add interpretive, educational elements to the site. Preservationists are making the case that the improved site will draw visitors and their tourist dollars to the local economy.

All of this might be in jeopardy, though, if Jerome County commissioners approve a large-scale cattle feedlot a mile from the Minidoka site.

Preservation Idaho and its national partner, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, have organized "the preservation express" to keep this from happening.

The bus will carry preservationists and former Minidoka camp residents to Jerome next week when the commissioners hear testimony on the issue. Everhart expects residents from Ontario, where many Japanese Americans settled after the war, and the Treasure Valley to join the trip to speak out about protecting the site.

"The Minidoka site happens to display a part of our history that's not all that glamorous, but it's significant," said Everhart. Some 13,000 internees from Washington, Oregon, California and Alaska lived at the Minidoka camp from August 1942 until October 1945. "Siting the feedlot in such proximity and upwind from the site goes a long way in prohibiting the use of the monument."

Preservationists are concerned about odor from the lot, dust and airborne germs. The National Trust recently listed the Minidoka site as one of the most endangered in the U.S. because of the impending feedlot. It's the first site listed by the trust because of environmental concerns, said Elaine Stiles, program officer at the trust's Western office.

The $38 million federal grant program to enhance internment sites around the country isn't the only legislation that might affect Minidoka.

Congress is now considering a bill co-sponsored by delegates from Idaho and Washington that would provide money to buy land and structures from the original site.

At the end of the war, the government sold off parcels of land and buildings. Many of the latter are still standing but were moved to other locations around the area. The legislation would also change the camp's status from a national monument to a national historic site and draw an official connection between Washington's Bainbridge Island and Minidoka. The first Japanese Americans to be sent to internment camps, including Minidoka, came from Bainbridge Island.

For more information or to find out how you can be involved, contact Dan Everhart at Preservation Idaho, 424-5111 or http://www.preservationidaho.org/index.shtml

Testimony about the feedlot and Minidoka: 3 to 10 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 25, and 9 a.m. to noon, Wednesday, Sept. 26, at the Jerome County Courthouse in Jerome.

Anna Webb: 377-6431, awebb@idahostatesman.com