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A Native American and Japanese American Student Story


As a docent at the Japanese American National Museum I had the opportunity to hear inmates reminisce about their camp lives. One story was about two fellow elementary school students at one of the three Poston concentration camps. One of the students was a Native American (Lets call him Ben) who lived a few miles from the camp and was permitted to go to the concentration camp school because the Indian school was 17 miles away at Parker Arizona. The other student was a Japanese American inmate (Lets call him Akira) imprisoned at Poston. The two became good friends and shared in the camp activities of schools, sports, and meals. To attend school, Ben would ride his horse to the back of the camp with a few Native American students.

Ben wanted to show Akira his life on the Reservation so he got permission from his parents for a visit. Ben's parents feared the WRA authorities and thought that the WRA would not let Akira leave the camp. So, they devised a plan where Ben and his father would meet Akira in the evening at the back of the camp with their horses.  

The camp fence was mostly nonexistent. They rode in the darkness with some backtracking to avoid the authorities. Despite the wild ride and Akira limited horse riding experience they were able to get to Ben's hogan. They got back to the camp the next night without detection. To the boys and Ben’s family, it was quite an adventure.

Ben and Akira lost contact a few years later after Akira's family went on their journey of recovery from their personal losses and imprisonment at Poston.

When one thinks about this story, one must be aware of both the injustices of the Japanese American Concentration and the oppression of the American Indian. The Colorado River Relocation Center (Poston) was used to build the infrastructure of the Bureau of Indian Affairs at Poston so that other Native American Tribes could be moved to Poston from their native lands.

Slides in this album 

Album Type

online exhibition

RoyKakuda — Last modified Mar 08 2018 3:00 p.m.

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