Monday, October 16, 2006

Poston internment camp film

An archivist at the Arizona Historical Foundation, Linda Whitaker, found a 25-min 16mm film canister last fall while preparing an exhibition on World War II Japanese internment camps. The film can was labeled "Poston Color Dupe." The film turned out to be footage of Arizona's Poston internment camp, which was located in La Paz county, 12 miles south of Parker. The film had a magnetic strip for sound, but it had deteriorated, so what is left is a color silent film. It has been converted to DVD format and is for sale for $40 from the Arizona Historical Foundation.

Poston was one of two sets of Japanese internment camps in Arizona, and was also known as the Colorado River Relocation Center. It was composed of three camps, called Poston I, II, and III, on reservation land of the Colorado Indians. It operated from April 1942 to March 1946, and at its peak housed 18,000 people. The other was the Gila River Relocation Center about 50 miles southeast of Phoenix, which housed 13,000 people at its peak, and operated from May 1942 to February 1946. It was composed of two camps, Butte Camp and Canal Camp, which were built over the objections of the Gila River Indian tribe, on whose land they were built.

The Japanese-Americans who were taken from their homes in California and Arizona and forced to live in these prison camps were mostly U.S. citizens (about 2/3). The Poston and Gila River camps were, at the time, the third and fourth largest "cities" in Arizona, after Phoenix and Tucson.

The Poston camp was built by Del Webb, best known as a homebuilder of planned communities in the southwest (such as Sun City and Anthem).

The discovery of this film serves to remind us how a country can get so caught up in wartime fear that it disregards its own Constitution and tramples the rights of individuals.


Sandy Kinnee said...

Seeing your blog about Poston made me think you might be interested in this:

Nick Hentoff said...

History Held Hostage

If Whitaker believes that the film is of such historical importance why are they limiting distribution of the film to those who can afford $40 to view it. They should have it streaming from their website.