The Forgotten Internment
July 18, 2014 6:30 AM   Subscribe

"On June 3 and 4, 1942, Japanese military forces conducted air strikes on U.S. Army and Navy facilities at Dutch Harbor, in what is now the city of Unalaska. Several days later, they occupied Kiska and Attu islands, the latter the location of an Unangax village. Within a short time, the 42 Unangax residents of Attu and a non-Native teacher were taken to Japan, where they served as laborers for the Japanese for the duration of the war ... For the Unangax [or Aleut] of most other villages, World War II brought a different fate:" internment camps in the United States

Parts of the Aleutian Islands are now a National Park; the website contains a wealth of information on the Unangax evacuation, lost villages, and internment (pdf, 9.78 mb), as well as the Aleutian campaign.

Several Unangax corporations maintain historical sites and cultural centers related to their internment, including the Ounalashka Corporation and the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association (which also has a really cool Unangam Tunuu language section). This Pinterest page rounds up some more resources on the Aleut evacuation. You can read a transcript of the documentary Aleut Story, which sheds light on the "lost internment" (pdf, 2.24 MB).

In 1988, the US Congress passed the Aleut and Pribilof Islands Restitution Act as part of the bill which also granted restitution to Japanese American internees, ultimately granting each "eligible Aleut" $12,000 in compensation for lost property.
posted by ChuraChura (7 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
I have heard plenty about this campaign, but I never knew about these internments.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:34 AM on July 18, 2014

Crap, someone'll get you either way. Horrifying.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:39 AM on July 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

The article linked to from the words "internment camps in the United States" is very sad. I'm not done with it, but I wanted to pop back in and say that it's worth reading.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:41 AM on July 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

I read the Maissonueve article last night before bed and couldn't sleep all night. Just haunting.

Great post, ChuraChura.
posted by divined by radio at 10:07 AM on July 18, 2014

One of my sister's friends, Zee, was the child of Aleuts who were forcibly evacuated from the Pribilofs during World War II and as her family tells it they were evacuated with virtually no warning -- boats showed up and people were told they had a matter of hours to take anything they needed with them.

When they reached their destinations, many were horribly unprepared for what faced them. Most were moved to camps in Southeast Alaska -- the remains of one such camp can still be found today near the community I live in, though little remains of it except for some foundations and footings in the forest near a local picnic and hiking area. Through ignorance and indifference more than malice, the powers that be who decided on this plan did horrible damage to the communities they uprooted. Distant policy-makers who had little knowledge of Alaska assumed that natives were natives and all were accustomed to foraging off the land -- but the food gathering and survival skills and clothing and tools required for subsistence living in the temperate rainforests of Southeast Alaska are different than those developed by the inhabitants of sub-arctic islands.

Zee's mother had never seen a tree before her relocation from the Pribilofs, and she and the rest of her community were dropped with minimal preparation into a forest so dense that you can't see more than a few yards. Times were tough and resources were needed for the war and little was set aside to help the relocated Aleuts establish themselves. By the end of the war more than 10% would die of disease complicated by malnutrition.
posted by Nerd of the North at 2:10 PM on July 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

While on the subject, one of the local artists I know illustrated this YA novel on the experience of the relocated Aleuts (I don't think she makes any royalties off it, or I wouldn't post the link, but she's an accomplished illustrator and I've heard good things about the book.)
posted by Nerd of the North at 2:13 PM on July 18, 2014

I had heard of the invasion (thanks to "snow crash", of all things - iirc, one character (Raven) is descended from an Aleutian who was taken in the invasion), but didn't realize the US had rounded up civilians in the Aleutian islands. Horrifying, indeed.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:22 PM on July 18, 2014

« Older Did you know that cashews come from a fruit?   |   What happens when you accidentally legalize... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments