Life at Minidoka

People washing in sinks
Washroom in a latrine.

Mitsuoka Family Collection

Minidoka was constructed on Bureau of Reclamation land which was designed to turn the high desert of Idaho into arable farmland. The entire camp extended over 33,000 acres, although only 900 acres were used as residential areas. The rest was used for administration and agricultural purposes. Minidoka had 36 residential blocks. Each block had 12 barracks, a mess hall, and a latrine. Each barrack was 120’x 20’, which was then divided into six units. Each unit would house a family or a group of individuals. Each unit had a single lightbulb and a coal burning stove. The walls dividing the units did not extend to the ceiling and the barracks had no insulation. There was little to no privacy for anyone.

The latrines were in an “H” shaped building with men on one side and women on the other, separated by the laundry area. The bathrooms, however, were simply a row of toilets and a row of showers with no partitions. For women, privacy was a major issue. The lack of partitions led to health issues that continued until partitions were built in the women’s bathroom area.
 
Women in graduation gowns in a mirror

National Archives and Records Administration

The mess hall was often the center of activity within a block. While operating as a dining facility, the mess hall also hosted community events such as dances or holiday parties.

Environmental conditions at Minidoka were harsh in comparison to what many of the incarcerees were accustomed to. Coming from the Pacific Northwest, most did not have proper clothing for the high desert environment of Idaho. In the winter, temperatures frequently dropped below freezing, while in the summer, the dry desert heat often reached above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Constructed from tarpaper and greenwood, the barracks were extremely hot in the summer and bitter cold in the winter.
 
People standing on the snow in front of buildings
Winter at Minidoka.

Suzuki Family Collection

Last updated: August 19, 2019

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Hagerman, ID 83332

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