By GWEN MURANAKA
RAFU ENGLISH EDITOR IN CHIEF
With $3 million appropriated for 2010, staff from the National Park Service came to Little Tokyo on Thursday to discuss the next round of Japanese American Confinement Site grants. More than 20 people representing groups, including the Amache Historical Society, Heart Mountain Foundation and Manzanar Committee, offered comments on the last round and ways to improve the grant program.
In September, nearly $1 million was awarded to 32 grants for the study, preservation and protection of locations where more than 110,000 men, women and children, most of them American citizens of Japanese ancestry, were detained and forcibly relocated after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Confinement Site Grant program was signed into law in 2006 authorizing up to $38 million for the life of the program.
Les Inafuku and Alisa Lynch from Manzanar National Historic Site made a presentation on the program and sought input ways the grant program could be improved in the future. NPS is seeking public comments until Dec. 9 and listening sessions were also held this week in Denver, Chicago, Little Rock, Ark., Seattle, San Francisco and Hawaii.
Inafuku suggested that grant applicants look to how the projects can reach out and educate as broad an audience as possible.
“Let’s make sure these grants are successful and create a good track record,” Inafuku said.
Grant applications will be available on Jan. 4, with the deadline to apply for grants on March 4. Before that, the NPS will host informational meetings. Inafuku said that the grant awardees will likely be announced on April 30.
Among the comments made at the meeting was the suggestion by many that a former internee be on the selection panel or that an advisory committee knowledgeable about Japanese American history be formed to assist. The request followed Inafuku’s explanation that due to the lack of Nikkei in the National Park Service, it was unlikely that a Japanese American would be on the selection committee.
The group also discussed the importance of gathering and interpeting oral histories and talked about the reliability of oral history and their educational impact. In 2009, six grants were awarded focusing on education and interpretation of the camp experience, four grants each for oral history and planning. Marjorie Matsushita-Sperling, Heart Mountain, suggested small vignettes rather and long-form oral histories would be more accessible to the public.
Bruce Embrey of the Manzanar Committee emphasized the urgency of the projects, due to the age of the internees.
“Time is the enemy,” Embrey said.
Public comments on the grant program are being accepted until Wednesday, Dec. 9 and can be sent by e-mail to parkplanning.nps.gov/imro or by mail to National Park Service, Intermountain Region, Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program, Attn: Kara Miyagishima, 12795 W. Alameda Parkway, Lakewood CO 80228.