This article was written for the October 2011 newsletter by Lynn Ate, member of the Latah County Human Rights Task Force
On September 10, 2011, Latah County Human Rights Task Force, Inc. presented its annual Human Rights Day exhibit at the Farmers Market in Moscow’s Friendship Square. The display, entitled “Human Rights Under Attack: Japanese Internment and Islamophobia,” focused the public eye on the Kooskia Internment Camp on the Lochsa …River in Idaho, a work camp where 265 Japanese resident aliens were interred as “prisoners of war” and worked on building what is now scenic Idaho Highway 12. Clearwater National Forest staff are currently in the final phases of producing an interpretive sign to place along the highway, and a picture of the interpretive panel was provided to the Task Force for the Human Rights Day display.
The public was reminded of the initial response of Japanese Americans after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center with the following statement on the display:
“Sixty years ago, people of Japanese ancestry were targeted as potential threats to national security… Sixty years ago, we stood alone. Today, people of Middle Eastern, Arab or South Asian descent, Muslims and Sikhs are being targeted as threats to our national security;… we were hoping that it would never happen again. We… are not willing to sacrifice… principles of liberty, democracy, and equality that define us as a great nation. The cost is far too high to pay. One hundred and twenty thousand Japanese Americans and immigrants of Japanese ancestry paid that price in 1942. We all have a responsibility to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
—Mrs. Mako Nakagawa, Japanese American Citizens League, Seattle Chapter (http://www.wingluke.org/Student%20Reader_Aftermath%20of%209-11.pdf)
The display also featured pictures of prominent Japanese Americans and Muslim Americans with banners encouraging all of us to be vigilant against intolerance and bigotry. Also available were an historical brochure on Kooskia created by the Task Force on the incarceration and internment of people of Japanese ancestry, copies of an article titled “Pearl Harbor and September 11” by Moscow journalist and UI Professor Emeritus Nick Gier, and a poster “When will we learn?” listing a history of discriminatory U.S. laws and policies. Author Dr. Priscilla Wegers joined the exhibit presentation with a display of her newly published book “Imprisoned in Paradise: Japanese Internee Road Workers at the World War II Kooskia Internment Camp” (Moscow: Asian American Comparative Collection, 2010).
The Task Force was pleased with a steady stream of interested members of the public visiting the display, some stopping to discuss issues or take pictures and some just taking the educational handouts to read later. The children’s activity table was particularly busy. The Task Force and student volunteers from Moscow High School’s Human Rights and International Clubs (HRAI) staffed a table where children could make origami figures with paper, instructions, and assistance provided, or could use markers and crayons at the table to color “mosque tile” coloring sheets created by the Task Force.
Task Force members Lynn Ate, Fran Rodriguez, Mary Jo Hamilton and Homa Assefi will now use the display and its materials to prepare an educational program for Moscow Junior High School students this academic year.