“Two minutes please”
By: Nancy Takayama, PSW District Staff
Last month I was asked by a former CSUN student who was asking on behalf of a California State University at Northridge (CSUN) faculty member, if the San Fernando Valley had a Japanese American history tour.
It was an interesting thought and I answered, No. I had met this student while working on a research grant with the CSUN Asian American Studies, the San Fernando Valley Japanese American Community Center and the San Fernando Valley Japanese American Citizens League.
We interviewed 20 Japanese American Nisei (second generation). The project was to uncover, research, collect and document the lost and forgotten existence of the Japanese and Japanese Americans in the San Fernando Valley, prewar and post war: The lost and forgotten history
Try going to the library or public records. You will find little or no records that the Japanese lived the San Fernando valley. It was through the oral histories collected and the research that were we able to discover that there were 132 Japanese American produce and flower farmers. Since they couldn’t own the land (Alien Land Law), they had to lease it, thus no records.
After WWII broke out, the Japanese and Japanese American families were removed from their homes. It was decades later, 3 decades for my family before they would talk about the removal, the relocations camps and the assembly centers. It took 60 years before the 20 oral history interviewees agreed to talk and record their personal stories about life before, during and after camps. With the discovery of the detention station internees are coming forward.
This detention station is part of our forgotten, lost history. This detention station and the stories that go with it are an integral part of U.S. history from 70 years ago. Let’s remember to not lose or forget the Japanese American part of U.S. history.
The San Fernando Valley has no historical sites representing the Japanese and the Japanese Americans in the valley.”
On Thursday, April 18th in Room 1010 of the Los Angeles City Hall the Cultural Heritage Commission met to vote on the Historic-Cultural Monument Application of the Tuna Canyon Detention Stations site.
The Tuna Canyon Detention Station “operated as a gateway to internment for civilians of Japanese, Japanese Peruvian, Italian and German descent. From its opening until May 1942, 1,490 Japanese males passed through the camp and were transferred to other internment camps…” (http://www.rafu.com/2013/04/commission-to-vote-on-monument-status-for-tuna-canyon-detention-station/)
More than a dozen community members came out to speak in support of designating the site as a Historical Cultural site. JACL Pacific Southwest District Governor, Ken Inouye, PSW District board member, Kanji Sahara and San Fernando Valley JACL board member and SFV Japanese American Community Center President, Nancy Oda.
Ken Bernstein, AICP, Principal City Planner Office of Historic Resources summarized the Los Angeles Department City Planning Recommendation Report stating “That the Cultural Heritage Commission not declare the property a Historic-Cultural Monument”.
The Cultural Historical Commission voted to support the City Planning Report not to support designating the Tuna Canyon Detention Station as a Cultural Historic Monument. The Cultural Historical Commission will now take their recommendation to the City Council for their vote. The application for designation will require 10 votes to pass.
What’s our next step if council votes against the Cultural Historic designation?
-Working with Councilman Alarcon in finding ways to create an educational and appropriate display of the detention station. The Cultural Historic Commission has required him to meet with the property owners.
-Check on other Historic Cultural designations on a State or Federal level.
JACL Pacific Southwest District and the San Fernando Valley Community Center will continue the efforts to save Tuna Canyon Detentions Station history.
For more information about the Tuna Canyon Detention Station, please view the following websites and documentation.
View a documentary short by John Newcombe on the Tuna Canyon Detention Station, “Rancho La Canada” (http://www.gcvoice.org/current-projects/vhgc.htm)
What Does Historic-Cultural Monument Status Mean?