The Significance of Preserving Honouliuli
The road to Honouliuli’s status as a national monument in February 2015 by President Obama was fraught with twists and turns and unfolded over the course of 17 years. Jane Kurahara and Betsy Young were on the trail from day one after receiving a call from a local TV station reporter seeking information on the internment camp’s location of which they had none. This sparked the beginning of their journey to identify the World War II-era confinement camp site and document, evaluate and plan for its preservation. Their exceptional efforts and perseverance have ensured that the history of Japanese Internment in the Islands is kept alive and the lessons learned shared with current and future generations.
We asked Kurahara and Young what preservation means to them and why it’s important to preserve the internment site at Honouliuli.
“If we did not try to find the Honouliuli internment site and find a way to keep it intact in perpetuity, there would be a permanent hole in that period of history. To me, “preservation” means not only keeping intact historical sites, but also finding and keeping the stories and resources that make that part of history live on permanently.
Preservation matters because without it, you are losing knowledge about that period of history. In this case, the Hawaii internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. More importantly you will be missing the historical lesson of how civil rights can be abused. Our country would be doomed to repeating the same mistake again.”
Kurahara has co-chaired the Hawai‘i Confinement SitesCommittee since its inception in 2005. She has taken the lead on the planning, coordination, and discourse on outreach presentations, archaeological surveys, spearheaded acquisition of key archival collection manuscripts and photographs relating to internment, was key in creating the original “Dark Clouds Over Paradise” traveling exhibits, and the development of the Hawai‘i
internment curriculum of materials being taught in schools today. She is a retired school librarian and dedicates much of her free time in the Resource Center of the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii. She was the co-manager of the Resource Center as a volunteer from 2001 to 2006.
“Our efforts to preserve the internment site at Honouliuli and the stories of Hawaii’s internees, are more than rediscovering and restoring abandoned concrete slabs, or documenting the recollections of our internees. They are about keeping alive the legacy and lessons of the World War II Internment of Japanese Americans.
We can provide visitors the historical context and a sense of place in a very visceral way. We can humanize the experiences of the internees and their families whose lives were changed forever by the unjust incarceration. We can pass on their lessons on social injustice and loss of civil liberties learned from internees like my cousin, Terushi, whose only “crime” was being Japanese and being a Kibei.
Preserving Hawai`i’s internment sites and the stories of our internees, will now serve in perpetuity as powerful resources to inspire people to work for social justice and civil liberties for all, with the spirit of Ganbare! Never Give Up!”
Young is an award-winning public school teacher, social studies curriculum specialist and school librarian, who has kept education as her main focus by helping to develop curriculum on Japanese American internment in Hawai‘i being taught in our schools today. She has conducted countless outreach presentations to community groups and schools, and chaired and coordinated the successful Day of Remembrance on February
21, 2010 which highlighted the Honouliuli internment camp. She also co-managed the Resource Center as a volunteer from2001-2006.
Kurahara and Young will be awarded the 8th Annual Frank Haines Award for outstanding, sustained achievement in preservation at the 42nd Annual Preservation Honor Awards Recognition and Celebration on May 27,2016.