Washington, DC – Legislative language originally introduced by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo to reform the boundaries of the Minidoka Internment National Monument near Jerome was approved today by the Senate as part of a larger public lands package. The passage of the bill means human rights advocates, including the Friends of Minidoka, Inc., can proceed with plans to raise additional funding to restore the site where Japanese Americans were interned during World War II.
Crapo was the keynote speaker last summer during an annual Pilgrimage event for family members and friends returning to the site of those who lived at the Hunt internment camp. He introduced the Minidoka legislation in February of last year, then worked with Senator Larry Craig to add language from other members of the Idaho and Washington delegations that led to inclusion in the bill passed today.
“The passage of this legislation creates the potential for a public-private partnership that will underscore our commitment to human rights here in Idaho,” Crapo said. “We honor those who produced farm goods and other materials under tremendous pressures. The return to Minidoka last year was an emotional experience for me and all of the friends and family who attended—the Friends of Minidoka.”
The legislation adjusts the boundaries of the Minidoka site, which was made a national monument in January 2001 and it adds a Bainbridge Island site in Washington State that was also used to house Japanese Americans during the war. The effort is important to clear the way for private fundraising by the Friends of Minidoka. In addition to the Minidoka site, they want to rebuild housing facilities at an adjacent and related site known as the Farm in a Day east of Jerome. More than 120,000 Japanese Americans were interned at ten sites around the U.S., with the Minidoka site, sometimes referred to as the Hunt Camp, being the largest. Annual human rights events and discussions are held every year at the site and at the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls.
Dr. Bob Sims, a board member of the Friends of Minidoka, said, “This is a big step in helping us realize the general management plan for Minidoka. This is a very big deal and we appreciate the senator’s work on this bill.”
Steve Thorson, a fellow board member of the Friends of Minidoka, said, “This is wonderful news. It will allow the Friends of Minidoka to move forward in our efforts to raise capital funding for construction of meaningful facilities at the Minidoka site. Our appreciation goes out to Senator Mike Crapo for his leadership and the entire Idaho Delegation for their persistent efforts in supporting passage of this important legislation."
The lands bill passed today also included provisions allowing Idaho irrigators to prepay unallocated water rights to the federal government in some cases, in order to pass along their family farms and ranches. Crapo also sponsored the original legislation. The measure now goes to the President for his signature.