By: Emily Hanako Momohara
June 30-July 3, 2011, almost 200 people journeyed to the annual Minidoka pilgrimage. This year was special for two very important reasons. First, the Minidoka Honor Roll was re-established at the entrance to the park. The Honor Roll was created during WWII by Japanese Americans incarcerated at Minidoka. It contained the names of young men and women who served in the US Military, who were from or had family in Minidoka. There was a ribbon cutting ceremony and the names of the Minidoka fallen soldiers were read by Kay Endo, a WWII Nisei veteran. There were many tears and cheers as the ribbon was cut. Friends of Minidoka board member, Bill Vaughn, a retired architect was the project manager and worked closely with Superintendent Wendy Janssen to make this project happen. It was paid for by a Confinement Sites Grant written by the Friends of Minidoka and matched with donations of labor and funds from community members. Anna Tamura of NPS and Keith Yamaguchi, Commander of the Seattle NVC spent many hours looking for the names and reaching out to community members. (Photo right: Kay Endo pays his respects)
The second moving and amazing aspect to this year’s pilgrimage was the noticeable changes to the park itself. NPS staff have been hard at work. The walking trail with waysides explaining different aspects of camp is nearly complete. A full barrack has been brought back to Minidoka and placed at the exact location of Block 22. Since the pilgrimage, NPS staff also moved a mess hall back to Block 22.
From Portland, the small but lively group included fearless leader Connie Masuoka, Mari Watanabe, Nobi Masuoka, Kay Endo, Carrie Saito, Al Abe, Kurtis Chaney, Kerry Chaney, Schafer Durgan, Kristi Fukunaga, Misa Sakai, Johnny Rojas, Patti Tamura Smith, and Richard Tamura.
Next year’s pilgrimage will be the third weekend in June. More infrastructure and progress will again be made in the upcoming year. Please mark your calendars and go on the pilgrimage next year.