The Archeology of Japanese American Internment

Several multicolored pebbles arranged above a scale ruler.
Gaming pieces recovered from Kooskia Internment Camp.

Stacey Camp

Dr. Stacey Camp, University of Idaho

October 4th, 2012

During World War II, the U.S. government imprisoned over 120,000 individuals of Japanese heritage solely due to their ethnicity. Internees creatively interrogated their imprisonment by utilizing and crafting material culture. This talk examines the material engagements recovered in the form of artwork, gaming pieces, vases, and other artifacts from Idaho's Kooskia Internment Camp.

Open Transcript


Karen Mudar: Good morning. NPS Archaeology Program Series for 2012. My name is Karen Mudar and I'm an archaeologist in the Washington office. Today, Dr. Stacey Camp, University of Idaho, will present some of her illuminating research on the archaeology of Japanese American internment. Outside of the Park Service, few people are aware that during World War II the US government imprisoned over 120,000 individuals of Japanese heritage solely due to their ethnicity. Despite losing homes and businesses, being relocated to camps and forced to live under stressful conditions for years, internees creatively interrogated their imprisonment by utilizing and crafting material culture. While the link between material culture and archaeology is obvious, I particularly like the way that Stacey is expanding our research boundaries by using archaeology to examine these uncomfortable manifestations of 20th century xenophobia. Stacey, thank you for being our first speaker.

Karen Mudar: And thank you for that wonderful introduction. I wanna begin by thanking Caitlin and Karen for inviting me to be the first speaker in this really wonderful and exciting archaeological series. And I also wanna thank the National Park Services, Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program that supported my research since 2009. I'm also excited to be sharing all my findings and research with such a knowledgeable community of archaeologists, as many of you have worked on landscapes associated with the dark and storied history of Japanese American internment. I welcome any questions as we're going along. I think it'll be easier for someone to just pipe up and ask me over the phone rather than typing in on my screen because I'll be reading from my paper here. So feel free to interrupt me, you won't hurt my feelings, and I'm happy to address any questions as I'm going along with this talk. So I'm gonna start with the presentation here.

Karen Mudar: On February 19, 1942 over 120,000 individuals of Japanese heritage were forced to leave the comfort in [05:25] ____ communities and relocate to internment camps spread throughout some of the harshest locales in the Western United States. Seen as enemies of the state during World War II, Japanese Americans were given an ultimatum. Abandon their homes within six to 21 days or be imprisoned. Housed in dreary, tar-paper military barracks at sites that ranged from former race tracks to prisons, Japanese internees found ways to transform their inhospitable living conditions into places that embodied some semblance of home and of Japanese American culture.

Stacey Camp: These transformations were material in nature. Internees creatively modified and consumed American-made goods, designed, build and grew elaborate and ornate gardens, and composed expressive artwork utilizing local materials gathered from the desolate camp landscapes and trash middens. As scholars are recognizing now, such activities expressed not only internee resistance to unjust imprisonment, but also communicated differences and transformations taking place within the Japanese-American community itself. My current research project, The Kooskia Internment Camp Archaeological Project, contributes to a growing body of scholarship on how these differences were experienced by different age groups, generations and genders within the Japanese-American community. I do so by focusing on the archaeology of Idaho's Kooskia Internment Camp, which you can see here in Idaho pointed with the red arrow. A World War II Japanese-American internment camp located here in North Idaho.

Stacey Camp: The Kooskia Internment Camp is unique in that the United States government used it as a testing ground for hiring Japanese male internees as a labor force to construct US Highway 12. The only experiment of its kind, Kooskia comprised of 265 men who were primarily first generation Japanese immigrants. And they're also known as Issei. Most of the camp's occupants voluntarily chose to leave other interment camps and the comfort of their families, to receive better pay for dangerous and manually intense labor that they would perform at Kooskia. At present, archaeological investigations of Japanese-American internment camps in the United States have concerned large camps werein upwards of 7,000 to 10,000 individuals were imprisoned. Archaeologists have faced significant methodological challenges in linking and making inferences about identity-specific behavior such as an individual of class, gender, generation, race to particular artifacts recovered from these sites due to the massive size and scale of the camps and their associated middens.

Stacey Camp: The demographics' diversity of these camps pose significant difficulties for scholars wishing to study gender, class and generational behavior at camps since they are occupied by men and women who represented a diversity of age groups and socio-economic statuses. Oftentimes, dumps at these camps such at Minidoka Amache and Manzanar, feature mixed materials from both administrative housing and internee barracks further complicating the identification of identity-related behavior. The Kooskia Internment Camp is thus unique in that its population was all male and that its internee barracks were segregated a half a mile away from the administrative housing complexes.

Stacey Camp: As mentioned, Kooskia's occupants were primarily first-generation migrants to the United States also known by the term as Issei. By comparing the data collected from Kooskia to previous excavations of internment camps, this project presents an exceptional opportunity to explore how differences in camp size, such as at Kooskia there's only 265 people there versus at bigger camps where there's 10,000 internees and to compare gender composition, females and males at big camps versus all male population at Kooskia. And age groups, at Kooskia was primarily first-generation Japanese migrants and at other camps you had multiple generation internees. How these vectors of identities shaped artifact patterning, this is something I am very interested in.

Stacey Camp: As a sole all-male first-generation Japanese internee camp to be excavated, this study will allow scholars to gain valuable insight into how internment experiences differed across generational and gender lines. These issues require comparative approach to the archaeology of Japanese-American internments. Camps cannot be fully understood in isolation as internees communicated with and sent packages to other camps and to individuals in and outside of the United States. Individuals like the men at Kooskia also moved and were transferred from one camp to another. All these factors resulted in the tracking of goods and ideas between camps. This requires examining the data collected by other archaeologists studying internments. Not only what they collected, but also how they've collected it.

Stacey Camp: Since there are several active academic research projects at internment camps in progress, I've decided to visit and observe the project closest to Idaho and it's not that close. It's a pretty long drive. The Amache Internment Camp Archaeological Project run by Bonnie Clark at the University of Denver. My goal in doing so was to align my research agenda and my methodologies with other archaeological studies of Japanese-American internment. This will allow data to be collected in a more standardized and systematic fashion which also permits statistically sound comparative opportunities. With the support of University of Idaho Key Fund grant, I traveled with two undergraduates to Dr. Bonnie Clark's archaeological field school in the summer of 2010, which involved a 43-hour drive back and forth between Moscow and southeastern Colorado was quite an adventure.

Stacey Camp: One of the most common research themes among archaeology of internment camps is a study of gardens. A theme that is also driven archaeological research at Amache Internment Camp here. In the slide we're looking at here, those trees that you see on the landscape in the right hand side of the slide were placed there by internees. We're looking at the foundations of a bathroom and if you can see kind of in the middle. I don't know if I can use my pointer if that's visible to other people. But where my pointer is at right now is a footbath that Japanese Americans would use to cleanse their feet and then they step into a shower. So this is Amache Internment Camp.

Stacey Camp: Despite being housed in dreary, tar-papered military barracks, archaeological studies such as projects at Manzanar, Amache and Minidoka have demonstrated the Japanese internees engaged in gardening. They did so to transform their inhospitable living conditions into places that embodied some semblance of home and Japanese culture. When we arrived at Amache we were given a tour of gardens discovered over the span of Dr. Clark's research project. Here, we see Dr. Clark who's in the blue coat there, discussing how internees used unfamiliar materials such as concrete, locally quarried rocks, scrap metal, marbles, and lumber to compose beautiful communal gardens. The garden here was constructed between the mess hall, where internees would spend much time lined up waiting for food to be served and for a place to sit. And this was not only a garden but a pond with a little wooden bridge over it.

Stacey Camp: And this next picture gives you a better sense of how internees co-opted local materials, a variety of local materials that you see here on the ground, to make ornate and beautiful hard spades. This is an entryway garden in front of a barracks with fragments of a flower pot on the former garden surface, which is kind of incredible. I don't know if it's still in situ but I'd love to think that.

Stacey Camp: This is the same entryway garden featuring an abalone shell, which was sourced back to California. Clearly, the internees sought to recall and recollect their former homes by transporting a delicate shell in the one suitcase they were allowed to bring to internment camp. As a few scholars have noticed, gardening practices differed across generational lines. Issei, "Developed the majority of ornamental gardens as they were the most skilled and knowledgeable about Japanese garden traditions." And this is an article from Tamura. Garden design was also influenced by Issei's place of origin. Issei living in urban regions weren't quite "as experienced ornamental gardeners and landscape professionals," which was reflected in their stylized complex garden designs, and that's another quote from Tamura's article on gardening in internment camps.

Stacey Camp: Now, I'm gonna move on to Kooskia. In order to investigate differences between camps like Amache and Kooskia I ran a four-week University of Idaho sponsored field school at the former site of the Kooskia Internment Camp. One of the challenges we faced when planning archaeological research at the site is that multiple occupations fit. The site has a complex multi layered occupational history that spans prehistoric, protohistoric and historic periods. Prehistorically and protohistorically speaking, it served as a camping and hunting ground of the Nez Perce. The site witnessed new visitors in the 1800s and early 1900s. In September 1893, 27-year-old William Carlin of Vancouver, 28-year-old engineer Himmelwright, and 30-year-old John Harvey Pierce of White Plains, New York met in Spokane and set out for a hunting trip along the vicinity of what is now the Kooskia Internment Camp.

Stacey Camp: They were guided by Martin Spencer and brought 52-year-old George Colegate of Post Falls, Idaho along as a cook. During their trek, they camped at Apgar Creek, which is where the Administrative Housing was located during the internment period, and fished at the mouth of Canyon Creek, which is located right next to the internee barracks. A Civilian Conservation Corps of Engineer's Camp, a CCC camp, which also went by the names of Camp F-38 and Camp 38 was built near the Lochsa River which is what became the area known as the Kooskia Internment Camp, and it was built in June 1933. It housed 200 individuals who constructed roads, established telephone lines, and fought fires. The camp closed in October 1933.

Stacey Camp: Two years later in August 1935, the CCC camp was once again occupied by federal convicts from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas along with officials and guards. Now known as Canyon Creek Prison Camp, its residents were charged with the task of constructing the Lewis and Clark Highway. The camp was closed in 1943 due to war-related expenses amassed by the Justice Bureau of Prisons. Many of the buildings and landscapes that the Japanese internees would later occupy were built in conjunction with Canyon Creek Prison Camp. Given the site's extensive history, we sought to locate areas of the camp that featured culturally modified landscapes and artifacts associated with the internment period.

Stacey Camp: Using historical archives and maps, we identified three zones or areas that were potentially associated with Japanese American and Japanese internees. These areas included the no longer existing internee barracks known as zone one, which we see here today and this is juxtaposing the bottom of the slide is a modern photograph of what the barracks landscape look like and at top that area in the rectangle is where the barracks were located. And so that's the same landscape looks absolutely nothing like the historic landscape, which is a little bit challenging.

Stacey Camp: On the second area we were studying, and we'll see photographs of this in a little bit, is an incinerator area that is surrounded by a large trash dump and we call that Zone 2. And the third and final area is the site of a potential vegetable garden that was harvested by Kooskia's internees and possibly the federal prisoners that were there when it was a Federal prison and that, we call that area 'Zone 3'. Because internees often had little at their disposal, they frequently modified the existing landscape to suite their cultural preferences. They did so by planting, growing, and to beautifully constructed gardens, as well as collecting sediment and stones and crafting them into decorative artwork. Aware of the significance of the natural landscape to Japanese internees, we hired a horticulturist, Dr. Richard Gold, to help us identify and avoid excavating specific plants and elements in the site that either date to the period of the internment and/or not native to the area, and here's Richard Gold telling us about some ground covering that was probably placed there by the administrators. This is the administrative housing area. Here's another photograph of some of the plants we found, a cherry tree that's near the internee barracks.

Stacey Camp: And here are just some historic photographs of the Kooskia Internment Camps, I don't know if you can see the pointer here, but there's this big, big piece of land in between, or in the middle, of what was called 'Canyon Creek' and Canyon Creek is still there today. And this piece of landscape was used as a garden by both the Federal prisoners and the internees. That is now underwater, I didn't know until I went out to the site during the summer, but it's, unfortunately, underwater so we can't study that aspect of the site. Here's some gardens along... I don't think this is a barracks, this is actually some of the administrative housing... Not administrative housing, I'm sorry, offices associated with the camp. And here's the barracks and there's a garden. I think this building might be a laundry. We're not really sure what the function of some these buildings was.

Stacey Camp: Here's some more of gardens along the barracks and here's an internee tending to one of the gardens. And this is the last slide of some antlers, kind of interesting and some more of the gardens here. The University of Idaho's Dr. Robert Heinse, who's a geophysicist, along with the University of Denver's April Kamp-Whittaker, applied ground-penetrating radar to the former internee barracks and vegetable gardens, to identify anomalies, such as barrack foundations or to strip soil from an internee garden. And you can see Robert here, with his dog on the side, left hand side of the picture, with ground-penetrating radar. You can also see us engaging in shovel testing. And we performed very small shovel tests, became a lot larger shovel test and I'll tell you why in a minute. We performed shovel tests across this landscape, the barracks landscape, and we collected soil samples to try and identify the presence of phosphorous, which can denote the addition of fertilizer and manure to a garden. Due to the general lack of conclusive data from the GPR Survey, we opted to perform 38 shovel tests to further explore the internee barracks. As we quickly discovered, the entire internee barracks landscape had been subjected to fill episodes.

Stacey Camp: A number of agencies had been using the abandoned internment camp, the barracks area, as a place to dump high volumes of highway related construction debris for many, many years. These fill episodes transformed internee barracks from a once level landscape into a sloped landscape. This made shovel testing quite interesting, as we were pulling out large boulders, pieces of asphalt, and encountering strata with mixed contemporary, historic, and pre-historic artifacts. And here's an example of the shovel test and kind of the big, big, rocks we were finding within them, making them very difficult to complete. And here's one boulder that one of our students pulled out of his 50-by-50 centimeter shovel test, that he was quite proud of. As it always seems to happen on an archeological site, we finally encountered something of historic value, after starting to dig the 36th shovel-test, in week two of the project, at that point many of my students were quite dismayed and ready to throw in the towel. We hit the foundations of what may be a wash or a laundry house, dating to either the prison-era or internment-era. We then used GPR, ground-penetrating radar, to trace out the foundations of the building and open up one additional excavation unit, using the GPR findings. We intend to open up additional excavation units next year, in 2013, to see if we can identify the building's function and size.

Stacey Camp: The second area we explored, 'Zone 2', features an incinerator for organic trash and a very large bin for non-organics associated with the camp. This is where a majority of the material culture I will discuss today was found. Here, we conducted a complete surface collection and excavated three test units to determine the horizontal and vertical distribution and integrity of the deposits. In the excavated units, the trash deposits extended as deep as 90 centimeters below the surface, at which point we encountered sterile soil and the water table. The venue was so rich in artifacts that it took a team of two to three experienced historical archeologists an hour to screen one bucket of dirt. We kind of joked that we were screening artifacts and not screening dirt, which made backhoeing [24:00] ____ a little bit difficult. We intend to return to this midden next year to continue excavations and work on the findings in midden's horizontal boundaries. What's kind of unique about this midden is that Canyon Creek, which goes through the internment camp, I think I can press on this... Yes I can. Canyon Creek went right though the internment camp here, this is the internee barracks, and when the camp was occupied, there was this vehicle bridge right here that allowed cars to go over and dump trash. And here's the incinerator, you can see it better close up when you look at historic photographs.

Stacey Camp: But essentially, that vehicle bridge was dismantled when the camp... When the internees left the camp in May 1945. And so really, it's been protected by the natural landscape, the existence of this creek. So one of the challenges we've faced is actually getting across that creek. It's not that big, but I was just out there a couple of weekends ago and it's pretty knee-high right now. So we're kind of dependent on how the snow season goes. If it's a really difficult snow season, we're not gonna be able to get out there until late July or early August, which makes it challenging to run a field school when you're on an academic calender. So, that's great because it's preserves the trash midden, but it's also a challenge for us to get out there.

Stacey Camp: And the bottom picture is a picture of the modern incinerator. Here's, actually an area in Zone 2, you can see a lot of tin cans. This is actually a half-and-half tobacco tin can that one of my students studied, I think I can... There you go, right there. And we see pictures of those tobacco cans in historic archives. Here's a bottle in the northern wall of one of the excavation units.

Stacey Camp: This brings me to the last area we surveyed and studied, and this is termed Zone 3, and this is the location of administrative housing and a former vegetable garden tended by the internees. Administrative housing was located one half a mile from the internee barracks. The area is now a campground and in places it appears to have been substantially modified and altered. We systematically mapped the area, collected soil samples from it and the results are pending from the soil analysis. We have to return back to the area to explore the material culture of the administrators, which I think would be very interesting, to see how their material lives differed or mirrored that of the internees. We concluded our field season with a public archeology day. And this another photograph of the administrative housing... A historic photograph of administrative housing. And some of the foundations of these homes are still there, which we discovered by doing GPR, so I'd like one of my students to go and do some research on it at some point, or I may end up doing it.

Stacey Camp: So we concluded our field season with a public archeology day, which involved the display of artifacts excavated from the camp, and a lecture by Dr. Priscilla Wegars, the author of the recently published book on the Kooskia Internment Camp. The public archeology day gave us a chance to emphasize the importance of the site and the role of the city of Kooskia, and the role that Kooskia plays in site stewardship and cultural resource protection. We also took visitors to the site for a tour of excavations, which you can see here, though we excluded the large trash dump from our tour, that's across the creek behind them, it's kind of over here, if you look at the slides, the creek's right back there. So we excluded that area, so that we could keep the site undisturbed for future research.

Stacey Camp: Our research continues to be detailed on our project website, we have a blog which is an additional way we have communicated our findings to the general public. I have also given an upwards of about 30 or 40 talks about the project since 2010, sharing new discoveries that we have happened upon while conducting laboratory research. The laboratory research is still underway, and we are still trying to figure out which horizontal and vertical deposits are definitively associated with the internment camp era. There are a few artifacts that appear to reflect the Kooskia Internment Camp's unique demographic attributes. In what follows, I will talk about some of our findings and interpretations. These findings of course may be amended or revisited when we return to Kooskia for another archeological field season in the summer of 2013, and if you have any students or people that wanna volunteer in the project, I always welcome new faces, I'm really supportive of having a variety of people come and work on the project.

Stacey Camp: Ceramic studies at Manzanar and Amache both note that the majority of the ceramics were not government issued institutional ceramics, like this US quartermaster vessel we found at Kooskia, but rather non-institutional ceramics such as Fiesta wares, and plain semivitrified white wares. Brenton, in her study of Manzanar ceramics assemblage notes that over 96% of the ceramics encountered during surface collection of the camp's landfill were not institutional. The same goes for Amache's surface collection, where 91% of the ceramic assemblage was comprised of non-institutional ceramics.

Stacey Camp: The nearly complete lack of Japanese ceramics at Kooskia suggest that women, particularly first generation Issei were likely predominately responsible for painting Japanese ceramics. Some of you may be familiar with this ware and have it in your home. One of the most common non-institutional wares found at the internment camp is Fiesta ware, a bright festival and very durable ware introduced by the Homer Watson Ceramic Company in 1936. Fiesta wares were not used inside mess halls, but rather were considered the personal property of internees. There were a number of ways objects like Fiesta wares could make their way into internment camp. Goods could be mailed to internees from friends, this is a quote from Clark & Skiles, "Friends, non-interned family members or others in their communities. Camp cooperative stores run by internees and mail order catalogues also provided access to products not provided by the United States government, including clothes, ceramics, toys, and food." However, Clark & Skiles argued that, "It is likely that almost all the Japanese ceramics recovered from Amache were once part of the internees' household goods, and were either brought with them or later shipped to the site."

Stacey Camp: The prevalence of personally owned Fiesta wares in Japanese internment camps suggest that ceramics with Japanese motifs is ceramics produced in Japan were not the only ceramics that symbolized home. In "Imagining Consumers: Design from Wedgewood to Corning," Regina Blaszczyk, argues that Southern California consumers were familiar with the symbolic connotations that came with purchasing Fiesta wares. She argues that the designers of Fiesta wares targeted Californians by making their wares reference the styles and colors popular during California Spanish colonial period. Many of the Japanese-American internees at Kooskia came from California as it was a common point of immigration. Perhaps consuming Fiesta wares was another way Japanese-American internees were able to recreate their former pre-internement and post-immigration homes.

Stacey Camp: Only a few fragments of Japanese exported porcelain were found in the entire collection at Kooskia. Despite this minute amount of Japanese wares, the Kooskia Internment Camp vessel form suggest that Japanese internees were continuing to maintain traditional food ware, or at least some traditional food ware. While we have yet to calculate the minimum vessel counts, numerous hollow wares, specifically bowls and tea cups, appear to greatly outnumber flat wares such as plates. So for Issei then, it seems that the origin, decoration, and origin of the vessel was less important than its form and the food contained within it.

Stacey Camp: So we have not yet started on the analysis of [32:04] ____ remains, we have other artifacts besides bowls that tell us something about the men's consumption and eating habits. We found a number of wadded up tin foil bowls, which I normally would discount to camping trash, but one of our graduate students, Faye Henry, took an interest in it and wanted to study them. After carefully unwrapping a number of them, she discovered that they were, in fact, chocolate candy wrappers, seen here. The candy was manufactured by the Imperial Candy Company of Seattle, Washington, which opened in 1906 and stayed in business until 1974. Here's some advertisements from the company. The company specialized in hard candies. Interestingly, the wrappers captured important transitioning candy marketing in America. Prior to World War I, candy and chocolate advertisements targeted women and drafted and thrust their ability to cure female problems. After World War I, chocolate started to be marketed towards men, thrusting the vitality they would gain by consuming these chocolate bars.

Stacey Camp: Those ceramics produced in Japan found at Kooskia, as I mentioned, are smaller in numbers. The fact that they were discovered at Kooskia speaks to the interesting gender dynamics that play within internment camps. One of the observations often made by scholars interested in ceramics at internment camps is that they were selected by the female heads of households. What does it mean then that we have encountered Japanese ceramics in small quantity? Perhaps ceramics decorated with familiar Japanese themes, such as this medium sized porcelain bowl fragment triggered memories of home and family. This bowl which was researched by an undergraduate student, Jeff Worthman, exhibit the unique design that was made via a process known as Fukuzumi. This involves having an artist place a stencil over the vessel and then spraying or blowing pigment, in this case, blue pigment over the bowl. Once the stencil is pulled away, a design is revealed, which usually has blurry edges like you can see here with the bird.

Stacey Camp: Another decorative ceramic found during the 2010 excavations, was what appears to be also a Japanese export porcelain featuring a Moriage design. Moriage refers to a raised clay decoration placed on a ceramic vessel. Given the stylistic features of this vessel, it appears it is a piece of Japanese Nippon Era ware. Made for export out of Japan from 1891 through 1921 or potentially Made in Japan era ware, which dates from the 1920s through World War II. This decorative piece appears to feature portions of a dragon's tail, especially when compared to pictures of a dragon vessel found in Joan F. Van Patten's Collector's Encyclopedia of Nippon Porcelain. The interior of another associated shard exhibit brown luster, which is frequently used in the opening of a Nippon ware vessels according to Priscilla Wager. Was this a gift given to an internee, sent by a family member? Or did men also consume ceramic goods as a nod toward their ethnic heritage?

Stacey Camp: I just drew this in because the Forest Service archeologist loved this creamer, but I'm kind of curious as to why we find the creamer associated with some of the Japanese-American internee wares and so I'd like to study a little bit more about this. And as we move forward and try to interview some of the people associated with the camp, we're hoping to find some answers as to what maybe this creamer was used for. And here's one of the many propaganda photos produced by the United States government, and this is a photograph of a dining table that we presume to be in the Kooskia Internment Camp. And what's interesting about this photograph is if you look at the table and the wares on the table, it's what we would consider traditional Anglo-American ware, the setting with the plates. And this is interesting when you juxtapose it with the archeological data which showed a preponderance of bowls. Artifacts associated with gaming and leisure appear to reflect clear differences between Issei and Nisei, and Nisei refers to second generation Japanese immigrants or Japanese-American men's experiences in internment camps.

Stacey Camp: As one internee at Arizona post an internment camp described, "Japanese women tended to shun gambling in their communities and were critical of men who engaged in such activities." This appears to be reflected in assemblages of other internment camps. Only a few gaming pieces or go pieces, that are small objects that are easily lost, have been recovered. At Kooskia a diverse range of gaming artifacts were found during excavation, including what appears to possibly be a bone Mahjong piece; I don't have a good photograph of that right now, but I will get one at some point. In this image we see a wide variety of gaming pieces. Some that appear to be manufactured on site from stone, mortar, and clay, and others that appear to be mass manufactured. These pieces may have been used in a number of traditional Japanese and Chinese games.

Stacey Camp: According to oral history the types of games Japanese men play were dependent on their generation, age, and class standing. For instance, Hana, a game that originated in Japan was popular among lower class gardeners, fishermen, older produce men, farmers, and migratory farm laborers. Some oral history suggest that Mahjong died out of favor right before World War II. Although the archeological record at Kooskia suggest otherwise. Perhaps Japanese-American men used games like Mahjong to craft some semblance of home and recall their pre-internment lives.

Stacey Camp: This is one of my favorite artifacts from the camp. I think everyone sees that it says the same thing. One of the most important finds from the 2010 field season similarly suggest that an internees gender and year of migration shaped artifact patterning at internment camps. Here, we see what appears to be part of the Japanese tradition of Suiseki, the act of collecting and arranging stones in the garden's landscape scene, animal shapes and human forms. We have several fragments of this artwork. Right now we estimate that we have a minimum of three [38:29] ____ in our collection representing this artwork tradition. With no access to traditional materials, internees crafted portable art, such as this piece to continue cultural practices. Similar looking art made out of rock and sediment have been featured in museum displays. With pieces serving both artistic and functional roles ranging from rock decorated pencil holders to vases. Interestingly, objects, such as the one pictured here, have not been found at other internment camp excavations, suggesting that this form of artwork may be specific to first generation male Japanese immigrants.

Stacey Camp: Evidence of the continuation of this practice at other internment camps is documented in one photograph found at Fort Missoula internment camp, a camp from which many of Kooskia's internees came. The photograph illustrates men, not women, holding and displaying what one presumes to be their own artwork. Similar looking art made out of rock and sediment has been featured in books like Priscilla's on Kooskia Internment Camp. As [39:39] ____ Jane de Lussier, a historian of Japanese internee art, has argued, artwork that required tools was usually performed by men, though there are a few instances in which both women and men transgressed what were generally strict gender lines dictated by a patriarchal Japanese kinship structure.

Stacey Camp: Tools were typically perceived as contraband within internment camps. However, at Kooskia the men were often given free reign of the camp, as the overseers recognized that there was really nowhere to flee in this remote setting. And another thing that makes Kooskia really unique is that it didn't have barbed wires around the camp because essentially there's nowhere to go there, and it's still like that to this day. It's really out in nowhere. They were even giving keys to vehicles and access to gasoline as one of my students, Paige Davies, discovered in her study of keys found during excavations at the camp.

Stacey Camp: The next set of data tells a broader story of internee resistance to camp conditions. Officials often meticulously censored letters sent out by the Japanese internees, which historians have used as primary data sources. The archives from Kooskia are filled with conflicting accounts from the medical facilities, hygienic products, and medicinal items made available to internees. In fact, the conditions at Kooskia were so bad that camp residents composed a petition in Japanese to camp officials requesting that, among many other things, "necessary accommodation for first aid be established in or around the working place," and proper clothing be provided given the rough work conditions. At the time, internees writing the petition claimed that there was, "not even a single medical officer to look after the lives of 130 persons," at the incredibly inaccessible work camp. And it's still like this today, medical facility, they're very hard to come by. You have to go about three hours to get to anything with a doctor.

Stacey Camp: Archival memos written by camp managers suggest that the petitioners' request were met immediately. Government officials wishing to uphold the rules of the Geneva convention and health and safety standards set by federal and state legislatures penned such documents, pulling into question the validity of their statements. These artificial people, see them in just a minute, and they should stand as a reminder that internees often had to fight for adequate care. They represent the outcomes of internee protest and defiance. So you never want to find teeth on an archeological site. But luckily once we washed these teeth, we noticed that they actually have a bold number on them that you can see in this photograph here, thankfully.

Karen Mudar: And here's a picture of the Japanese dentist that was there for a time and I'll skip this inkwell. It's a kind of an interesting piece. And there's another picture of a dentist there. Alright, Calli Oliver's research on medicinal products found at the camp uncovered a Japanese manufactured patent medicine bottle, pre-dating the occupation of the Kooskia Internment Camp. It was manufactured between 1929 and 1943 by the Wakamoto Pharmaceutical Company. We determined this by translating Japanese characters found on the neck of the bottle fragment and then contacting the Wakamoto Pharmaceutical Company, which is actually still in existence today and I've been very lucky that I've had several students who read, and speak, and write Japanese who have been helpful in talking to the Wakamoto Pharmaceutical Company.

Stacey Camp: And this was what was called a source of fused gastrointestinal supplement that was infused with Vitamin B. And we know this because they were kind enough to send an advertisement of this medicine to us when we were corresponding with them. And so you can see that's a picture of the bottle that we have in our collection. And here is an example of what the bottle would have looked like complete and here are the fragments of the bottle that we've cataloged and found in the collection so far.

Stacey Camp: Interestingly all Japanese manufactured products were banned from importation within the United States during World War II. So how did this medicinal bottle, one not documented in purchase orders, and we have lots of them in our copious archives, make it into the interment camp? One possibility is that a Japanese doctor brought it to the camp with him while he was practicing there. Another possibility is that internees brought medicinal products of their own into the camp in the once suitcase they were allowed to bring. In either case, this delicate glass bottle must have contained medicine that was extremely important to a Japanese-American internee as it was one of the few things he chose to place in his suitcase. Another medicinal product found during the project is an eye stand [44:32] ____ made by [44:33] ____ according to Kelly Laurens, archival research, nearly 50% of the men at Kooskia experienced eye troubles at any given time. Problems that were directly related to the dusty and dangerous highway construction work they were conducting.

Stacey Camp: Another student, Jamie Cappilona found equally interesting information on some perplexing buttons recovered during the Kooskia excavations. A wide range of button types were found at the camp, including those that you see pictured here. One of the more interesting buttons is pictured and stamped with a manufacturers mark City Button Works, New York. According to Jamie's research, City Button Works only stamped their name on the backs of buttons like the ones seen here during World War I. Given the site's long-term occupation history, one might assume this button was used prior to the interment camp period. However, the button was found on the surface of the site and in contact with other interment era related artifacts like the gaming pieces we saw earlier. After Jamie conducted extensive archival research, she discovered that the internees were receiving their work clothing from army surplus stores that carried clothing used in past wars.

Stacey Camp: The US Prison service buttons pictured here in the middle of the slide were likely worn during the site's prison camp era where the site was used as Canyon Creek Federal Prison and interment camp era, since many of the employees who worked at Canyon Creek Federal Prison continued to be employed as staff members when the site became the Kooskia Internment Camp. And that was a big problem because a lot of the people who worked there as prison officials treated the internees as if they were prisoners and so some of the internees made complaints, formal complaints against the people that were working there. This is verified during Jamie's archival research where she discovered orders for guard uniforms and buttons. These documents discuss limiting the adornment of a button like the one seen here to officers rather than guards. This suggests that there existed a clear class structure within the prison and interment camp employees, which they have visibly displayed using buttons such as these.

Stacey Camp: Together the artifacts recovered from the 2010 field seasons work at Kooskia, tell stories that both complement and defy what can be found in the historical records. If it wasn't for this excavation, we would have no idea that internees went to great lengths to transform Kooskia into a culturally familiar landscape. The artwork, gaming pieces, decorative ceramics and Japanese medicinal products discussed today are a testament to this, as they are not discussed in the archives. As hopefully I've shown today, archeology therefore has the potential to go beyond the historical records and to contribute to larger questions about how gender and generational differences were expressed and enacted through material practices inside the World War II Kooskia Internment Camp.

Stacey Camp: Thank you very much and I'm just gonna put my slide up of thank you's. Hopefully I haven't missed too many people. There's been so many people that have been a part of this project and I hope in about 5 or 10 years I can write a book about what we've discovered. I've approached this project from a very collaborative perspective and I've involved students in it from kind of day one before we even with out to the site, so it's really important that I continue in that tradition. My vision for this project is that we'll continue it for maybe another 10 years, and produce some sort of edited volume with students' work and my work as well. So I'm happy to take any sorts of questions or comments, and thank you for listening.

Karen Mudar: Thank you very much for that wonderful talk, Stacey. Do we have any questions? Stacey, what is the status of the land now that the camp is on?

Karen Mudar: It's Forest Service property. It was historically and prehistorically Nez Perce land, and there's kind of a tenuous history behind how the United States government acquired that land from the Nez Perce so when we set out to do this project, I consulted with the TPO, the tribal preservation officer of the Nez Perce, as well as the Forest Service and that's part of the Forest Service's process as well. So it's on Forest Service land, but it's really out in nowhere. It's along the highway that a lot of people travel to go to Montana, and people are very curious about this site and the town and the people that come to visit. There's a couple resorts out there. It's a beautiful place to go if you haven't figured that out from the photograph. There's a lot of white water river rafting and outdoor activities, as well as this kind of weird movement called "Glamping" that's become very popular where people go and camp in these kind of colonial-looking tents outside.

Stacey Camp: So there's these resorts out there, some are kind of expensive and some are a little bit cheaper. From the outside, a lot of people from California, from the West come and stay there and they've been asking about the Kooskia Internment Camp. I'm not sure how they learn about it. I know we had NPR come out while we were there. According to resorts, a lot of people are very curious about the camp, but there's no signage and the Forest Service is really strapped to do any sort of regular work there in terms of maintaining the trails. Though our hope is that we get this place listed on the National Register of Historic Places, get some signage out there, and I think the Forest Service is working on that the last I heard but I like my archeological data to be a part of that signage, to tell the stories that I've told today. Right now, you would go there and you would have no idea that this was an internment camp. Absolutely no clue.

Karen Mudar: How interesting.

Stacey Camp: Yeah, it's very sad that the historical memory of the camp was kind of lost and that it had been dumped on. I don't think it was intentional, but it's been dumped on for many, many years and that's kind of a sad aspect of a lot of internment camps' histories, is that they've just been neglected, forgotten and not preserved for the people that now want to study them. The [51:00] ____ communities the stakeholder communities that now want to pilgrimage out to them. I'm hoping to change that. I have a lot on my plate the next couple of years but my long-term goal really is to get the site on the National Register of Historic Places and get some signage out there. A few of my students have already started the nomination process for me. Again, I've tried to include students on every step of the process, that's a very important thing to me.

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47 minutes, 54 seconds

Stacey Camp, 10/4/2012, ArcheoThursday

Last updated: July 21, 2021