The bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, ignited a panic across America that resulted in the forced relocation of Japanese American citizens and non-citizens from the West Coast to one of ten inland internment or prison camps. In an effort to appease the occupants the US government offered them a way to influence their restricted environment within the restricted parameters of the camps. One of these ways was a system of self-government. While the experiment seemed to worked adequately, others experienced extreme difficultly in implementing the system. This presentation deals with the largest of the camps, Poston on the Colorado River Indian Reservation in Arizona. The existence of self-government brought to light a multitude of tensions culminating in violence known as the Poston Strike. Elements involved in the Strike are discussed, including the physical and mental environment of the camp, the agenda of the administration of the camp by the War Relocation Authority and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the tensions between the Issei (1st) and Nisei (2nd) generations of Japanese Americans and the festering distrust between the administration and the residents. Focusing on one camp provides a view of life within the camps that reaches beyond the expected dimensions of community life. By examining the self-government program and its results in Poston this paper offers a unique look at both federal policies and life within the Japanese American relocation campus during World War II.
Katrina Krupicka, ’02 Niobrara, NE
Sponsor: Richard Thomas