An important note about terminology and caring for each other's histories:
Some readers may have an emotional response to the use of terminology on this website that is historically associated with specific events, places, and people: namely the term "concentration camp" and its close association with the atrocities perpetrated against Jewish people by the Nazis.
The use of this terminology here is not meant to conflate or compare experiences, rather to reject euphemisms and propaganda that helped make the incarceration of Japanese Americans possible. I acknowledge that the debate over this terminology continues. Our language, like our understanding, is always evolving.
My decisions are informed by resources at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum here, and here, by the Densho statement on terminology, by The National JACL Power of Words Handbook (pages 12-13) and by ideas that are debated in this NPR article, and this article from the UCLA Newsroom in 2015.
By using the term "American concentration camp" when referring to these sites, my aim is to reject euphemistic language and to make a clear distinction between the human-rights violations that took place on American soil, versus the atrocities, genocide, and torture that took place in the Nazi concentration camps, forced labor camps, and killing centers.
The statement below can be found in context here (pages 12-13). It was co-authored in 1994 by the Japanese American National Museum and seven American Jewish organizations. I argue that today, we can add more examples to the list of countries that use concentration camps but the spirit of the statement remains a model that exemplifies for me what it means to honor each other's histories; to clarify what sets them apart; and to remind us of the horror of the most egregious acts therein:
"A concentration camp is a place where people are imprisoned not
because of any crimes they committed, but simply because of who
they are. Although many groups have been singled out for such
persecution throughout history, the term ‘concentration camps’
was first used at the turn of the century in the Spanish American
and Boer Wars.
During World War II, America’s concentration camps were clearly
distinguishable from Nazi Germany’s. Nazi camps were places of
torture, barbarous medical experiments, and summary executions;
some were extermination centers with gas chambers. Six million
Jews and many others including Gypsies, Poles, homosexuals, and
political dissidents were slaughtered in the Holocaust.
In recent years, concentration camps have existed in the former
Soviet Union, Cambodia, and Bosnia.
Despite the difference, all had one thing in common: the people in
power removed a minority group from the general population and
the rest of society let it happen."
A note about the Gila River American Concentration Camp: This site is located on private property belonging to the Gila River Indians, If you wish to visit the Gila River site, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Land acknowledgments are made and updated using guidance on the Whose Land resource. Please contact me directly if you want to offer feedback or to make suggestions.
All views expressed on this website are my own.
Broadly, this work is about longing and land, memory and mythology, about ancestors, itinerancy and ersatz time travel. Specifically, this work is about my own family and their unlawful forced removal from the West Coast.
I employ a variety of mediums including sculpture, found objects, textiles, and photographs; I make site-responsive and site-informed works.
All images by G. Funo O'Kain unless otherwise noted.