The mission of the Oregon Nikkei Endowment is to preserve and honor the history and culture of Japanese Americans in the Pacific Northwest, to educate the public about the Japanese American experience during World War II, and to advocate for the protection of civil rights for all Americans.
In 1990, the Japanese American Historical Plaza was completed at the north end of the Tom McCall Waterfront Park in Portland. Conceived and guided by the Oregon Nikkei Endowment and designed by the late Robert Murase, the Plaza, along with its narrative of sculpted stones, stands as a permanent memorial to the lives of Oregon Nikkei and their determined pursuit of liberty, equality, and justice as American citizens.
With funding from the Meyer Memorial Trust and support from the Japanese National Museum in Los Angeles, the Oregon Historical Society and the Portland Nikkei community, an exhibition honoring the first Issei pioneers in Oregon was developed in 1993.
It was while researching "In This Great Land of Freedom: The Issei Pioneers of Oregon" that the Nikkei community was alarmed to find that historical documentation relating to these early settlers was rapidly disappearing. The prospect of losing forever the legacy of their Issei forebears quickly moved the community to action. An Oregon Nikkei Endowment committee was formed, and work began in earnest to locate a site for what would one day become the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center.
By 1996 and with the help of the late Bill Naito, the committee had located a potential site owned by the H. Naito Corporation on Northwest Front Avenue across from the Japanese American Historical Plaza. Negotiation for acquiring the property and bringing it up to city building codes began, but were suspended upon the untimely death of Mr. Naito. Subsequently, Sam Naito and the H. Naito Corporation proposed an alternative site in Portland's Old Town on NW Second Avenue. In September of 2004, the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center relocated to 121 NW Second Avenue, the current home of the Legacy Center.
Nikkei-go: The Language of Family, Community, and Culture
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