Proclamation remembers Idaho internment camp prisoners

The camp is now the Minidoka National Historic Site managed by the National Park Service.

  • By KEITH RIDLER Associated Press
  • Monday, February 18, 2019 4:31pm
  • Northwest

By Keith Ridler / Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho Gov. Brad Little on Monday issued a proclamation to recognize and remember the people of Japanese ancestry imprisoned at the Minidoka internment camp in south-central Idaho during WWII.

Little signed the proclamation in the governor’s ceremonial office in the Statehouse with a former prisoner from the Minidoka camp in the audience.

Ninety-three-old Sadami Tanabe lived at the camp in the 1940s after being relocated with his parents and three siblings from Oregon when he was 16. It was part of the federal government’s plan to remove people of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast.

“I was just a kid,” Tanabe said after the signing ceremony concluded. “I guess they had to do it — the evacuation. I don’t know the right or wrong on that issue. I was there for three years at Minidoka.”

Starting in 1942, when the U.S. was at war with Japan, around 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry were ordered by the U.S. government into prison camps around the country. The camp in Idaho housed more than 9,000 people. It’s now the Minidoka National Historic Site managed by the National Park Service.

“The Japanese American community has been such an integral part of the state of Idaho for a long time,” Little said after signing the document and giving the pen to Tanabe. “We need to remind ourselves of a time when they were really resented, and bad things happened, and that’s why we do this.”

During his time at the Minidoka prison camp, Tanabe made model airplanes. Sometimes the model planes flew outside the barbed wire and guards allowed Tanabe to retrieve them.

Tanabe’s family lost most of their belongings and their orchard in Oregon while being held in Minidoka. After the war, Tanabe continued making model airplanes, and moved to the Midwest where he won competitions with them.

He returned to Boise in 1949 and eventually got a job with St. Alphonsus hospital in Boise as a janitor, but transitioned to biomedical equipment tech with his mechanical skills. He continued making model airplanes.

“It was a hard time trying to make a living,” said Tanabe, who attended the signing ceremony with his daughter. “Even here in Idaho after the war.”

The National Park Service has asked Tanabe to make a replica of model planes he made while being held in Minidoka. Officials say they would like to display the plane at the historic site’s visitor center that’s planned to have a grand opening this summer.

“It’s important we remember these things,” Little said. “Most people in Idaho think we’re exempt because of where we are — isolated. But we’re not, and this is a good example.”

Talk to us

More in Northwest

Trainer Marcia Henton feeds Lolita the killer whale, also known as Tokitae and Toki, inside her stadium tank at the Miami Seaquarium on Saturday, July 8, 2023, in Miami, Fla. After officials announced plans to move Lolita from the Seaquarium, trainers and veterinarians are now working to prepare her for the move. (Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald/TNS)
Ashes of orca Tokitae finally home after her death last month in Miami

Her ashes will be scattered in a private ceremony by members of the Lummi Nation.

A Coast Guard cutter searches for a crashed chartered floatplane near Mutiny Bay Monday afternoon in Freeland, Washington on September 5, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Wife of pilot killed in Whidbey Island floatplane crash files lawsuit

This is the lawsuit filed against companies associated with the aircraft’s operations and manufacturing.

NO CAPTION. Logo to accompany news of Seattle.
Seattle City Council OKs law to prosecute for having and using drugs such as fentanyl in public

The council voted to approve the measure by a 6-3 vote on Tuesday, aligning the city’s code with a new state law.

Logo for news use, for stories regarding Washington state government — Olympia, the Legislature and state agencies. No caption necessary. 20220331
WA Supreme Court says state isn’t responsible for 100% of school construction costs

Wahkiakum School District argued the state’s duty to amply fund education extended to capital projects. One justice scolded the state, saying the current system is unfair to small districts.

An EA-18G Growler taxis down the airstrip on Naval Air Station Whidbey Island during the squadron’s welcome home ceremony in August 2017. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Scott Wood/U.S. Navy)
Judge orders new Growler jet study on Whidbey Island

The Navy must redo an environmental study on the impact of expanded EA-18G Growler operations.

Scott Giard, Coast Guard spokesperson, addresses the media regarding the search for a crashed chartered floatplane Monday afternoon in Freeland, Washington on August 5, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
NTSB probe of Whidbey floatplane crash points to likely cause, fix

Documents released Friday reveal new details about the deadly floatplane crash that happened a year ago near Whidbey Island.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson arrives on April 27, 2023, at the University of Washington's Hans Rosling Center for Population Health in Seattle. Attorney General Ferguson launched an exploratory campaign for governor on Tuesday, May 2, 2023, one day after incumbent Jay Inslee announced he would not run again. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)
State attorney general asks feds to add Everett to Operation Overdrive

Bob Ferguson requested that the federal government include the city to an initiative aimed at identifying and dismantling drug networks.

FILE - Bruce Harrell speaks on Oct. 28, 2021, in Seattle during the second of two debates before the November election for the office of mayor. Harrell, now Seattle's mayor, says the police department's low staffing in its sexual assault unit that has led to a backlog of dozens of stalled cases is "unacceptable." Harrell made his comments following a report by The Seattle Times and KUOW of an internal memo that showed the unit had stopped investigating most new sexual assault cases involving adults this year. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, Pool, File)
Seattle mayor proposes drug measure to align with state law, adding $27M for treatment

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell is offering a proposal that would align the city’s code with new state law.

Murphy’s Lala speaks to a crowd at Arlington’s first-ever Pride celebration telling them to “pay them no mind” in response to the Pride protestors on Saturday, June 4, 2022. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
AG’s office presses Arlington for weapons-free zone at Pride event

Event organizers say the precaution is warranted under the terms of a 2021 state law.

U.S. Attorney for Western Washington Nick Brown poses for a photo outside the U.S. Courthouse Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Ex-US attorney to face state senator in Washington AG race

Nick Brown announced Wednesday he’s running to be Washington’s next attorney general.

FILE - Then-Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., speaks on Nov. 6, 2018, at a Republican party election night gathering in Issaquah, Wash. Reichert filed campaign paperwork with the state Public Disclosure Commission on Friday, June 30, 2023, to run as a Republican candidate. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Former sheriff who nabbed ‘Green River Killer’ to run for Washington governor

Former King County Sheriff and U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, 72, is running as a Republican candidate.

Debris from the Titan submersible, recovered from the ocean floor near the wreck of the Titanic, is unloaded from the ship Horizon Arctic at the Canadian Coast Guard pier in St. John's, Newfoundland, Wednesday, June 28, 2023. (Paul Daly/The Canadian Press via AP)
Presumed human remains found in wreckage of OceanGate submersible

The U.S. Coast Guard says it has likely recovered human remains from the wreckage of the Titan submersible.