Linfield examines Oregon’s WWII internment of Japanese Americans

Architecture of internmentThroughout March, Linfield College will discuss the incarceration of Japanese Americans throughout Oregon during World War II. The college will examine the weight of these actions through a traveling exhibit, an art installation and a documentary film.

On Feb. 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the forced relocation of Japanese Americans in the wake of the attack at Pearl Harbor. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese Americans on the West Coast were forcibly relocated to internment camps. Permanent camps were built in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Utah and Wyoming, and temporary camps were established in Oregon. Even Linfield students were forced to relocate, leaving their lives behind.  

The documentary film “Right of Passage,” by director and producer Janice Tanaka and co-producer Nancy Araki, will be screened Wednesday, March 7, at 7 p.m. in the Richard and Lucille Ice Auditorium, followed by a Q&A session with Tanaka and Araki. This film tells the story of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which acknowledged the fundamental injustice of the imprisonment of Japanese Americans during WWII in internment camps. This act also provided each surviving internee $20,000, as well as a government apology. This film recounts the journey of disenfranchised people who, for 30 years, buried their shame and indignation but then found the courage and strength to seek justice.  

Tanaka provides a unique inside perspective in this film, as her mother was incarcerated at Camp Amache and was a recipient of the $20,000 reparation and apology from the Civil Liberties Act. She has more than 30 years of experience producing film, cable, corporate media and educational videos for non-profit organizations in the Asian American community. Co-producer Araki lived through the history depicted in this film as an inmate in the Topaz internment camp in Utah. She has more than 50 years of experience in the Japanese American community as a former co-executive producer of the Japanese American National Museum.  

A traveling exhibit, “Architecture of Internment: The Buildup to Wartime Incarceration,” will be on display from Monday, March 5 through Friday, March 23 in the Nicholson Library. The exhibit explores how Oregonians may have participated in the decision to incarcerate Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants during World War II. Through letters, telegrams and other documents written by Oregonians and state lawmakers, as well as blueprints for internment camps, this exhibit tells the story of how many advocated for the confinement of Oregonians of Japanese ancestry. 

An art installation by Chisao Hata will also be presented from Friday, March 2 through Thursday, March 15 in the Multicultural Center in Withnell Commons. Hata’s moving display features various name tags on a rope, symbolizing the tags each person wore as they were taken to various internment camps. Hata’s work focuses on social justice, peace and diversity and is designed to express the perspectives and historical identity of people of color in America. 

These events are free, open to the public and sponsored by the Linfield College President’s Diversity Advisory Committee. For more information, contact Gerardo Ochoa at or 503-883-2617.