OSU conference to look at Japanese-American internment


CORVALLIS - Educating future generations about the mass internment of 120,000 Japanese-Americans in concentration camps during World War II is the focus of a special program at Oregon State University on May 16.

Funded by the Civil Liberties Public Education Fund as part of the U.S. government's reparation settlement, the program is aimed at K-12 educators. It will run from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in OSU's International Forum (in Snell Hall).

"Our goal is to help educators at all levels of K-12 to recognize that this was a part of our country's history, and to help them incorporate these lessons into their curriculum," said Patti Sakurai, an assistant professor of ethnic studies at OSU and a coordinator of the program.

The program will last all day and is open to the public, though attendees are asked to register in advance. In the morning session, keynote speaker Peggy Nagae will emphasize the importance of including this chapter of history in schools' curriculum, and discuss her own educational experiences in Oregon. She was a member of the legal team that helped clear the name of Min Yasui in the 1980s. Forty years earlier, Yasui, a U.S. citizen and graduate of the University of Oregon law school, intentionally broke Portland's curfew to protest treatment of Japanese-Americans. As a result, he spent nine months in solitary confinement.

Yasui's brother, Homer Yasui, will be part of a panel discussion from 10 a.m. to noon called "Japanese-American Experiences During World War II." Also speaking on the panel will be Kenge Kobayashi, who was interned at Gila River, Ariz., and Tulelake, Calif., during the war; Bob Kono, who was interned at Gila River, Heart Mountain, Wyo., and Crystal City, Texas; and Misa Smith, whose family harbored Japanese-Americans in Ely, Nevada, who were fleeing the West Coast. Moderating will be Linda Tamura, a professor of education at Willamette University, and author of "Hood River Issei."

The afternoon session will be a K-12 curriculum workshop directed by Paul DeWitt, a nationally recognized educator who has been conducting workshops for years aimed at integrating lessons about the World War II experience of Japanese-Americans into K-12 curriculum.

The program is open to all Oregon K-12 educators, and the general public, for free. One professional development credit for teachers is available for a $40 tuition fee. Registration forms and information are available by calling Patti Sakurai, OSU Department of Ethnic Studies, at 541-737-5743.