Save Tule Lake: Tell Modoc County it cannot erase Japanese American incarceration


Preservation of the Tule Lake concentration camp and segregation center in Modoc County in Northern California, is under threat from a plan being pushed by Modoc County that would permanently damage the historic fabric of this national civil rights site.

Tule Lake is recognized as the infamous segregation center where more than 24,000 Japanese Americans were imprisoned and punished for speaking out about the mass incarceration during World War II.

Modoc County is proposing a three-mile-long, eight-feet-high, barbed-wire fence around the Tule Lake airport that would cut off access to the site where thousands of innocent men, women and children were incarcerated. The airport is a small airstrip used by one business, a crop-dusting firm. This massive fence would send a message of exclusion and hatred to Japanese Americans seeking to heal the wounds of the mass incarceration. The fence will permanently damage the national civil rights site.

If Modoc County allows this fence to be built, it will be yet another testament to governmental failure to comprehend the traumatic injustice inflicted by racism and its perennial pursuit to sacrifice communities of color for its own profit.

Satsuki Ina, who was born in Tule Lake, wrote, “I am shocked by this insensitive and disrespectful plan. This massive fence will interfere with the desire I and visitors to Tule Lake have — to mourn the unjust imprisonment and to heal the scars of the past. Instead, we will be assaulted with a reminder of rejection, exclusion, and emotional pain.”

Modoc County and its residents have a history of disrespecting the families of Tule Lake. The site of the Tule Lake cemetery on the airport grounds was bulldozed by homesteaders and used as fill dirt when the airport was built. A further desecration of the concentration camp site took place when Modoc County located a dump site across from the burial grounds.

Adding more insult to injury, Modoc County has not completed an environmental impact report of the entire airport, which takes up two thirds of the Tule Lake site and is sandwiched between two national wildlife refuges.

Meanwhile, it alleges that the fence is needed to prevent harm to wildlife. Birds are the major wildlife in the area, making the fence completely ineffective. What would be effective is moving the airport off of the historic site and to stop demeaning the memory of the 24,000 people who were incarcerated there.

We have until 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 10 to write to Modoc County and tell them we oppose the construction of a three-mile-long fence that would permanently tear apart Tule Lake and desecrate its significance as a national civil rights site and status as a National Historic Landmark.

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