First Anniversary of Historic Designation for Tuna Canyon Celebrated

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Front row, from left: Ken Furutani, Sumi Yamaguchi, Haru Kuromiya, Jane Nishii, Patty Takayama. Second row, from left: Nancy Oda, Nancy Takayama, Teddy Yamane, David Scott, Min Tonai.

Front row, from left: Ken Furutani, Sumi Yamaguchi, Haru Kuromiya, Jane Nishii, Patty Takayama. Second row, from left: Nancy Oda, Nancy Takayama, Teddy Yamane, David Scott, Min Tonai.

The Tuna Canyon Detention Station became Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument No. 1039 one year ago on June 25, 2013.

After hearing statements from community advocates and family members of Japanese, Italian and German Americans who were interned at Tuna Canyon during World War II, the Los Angeles City Council approved the designation of the site, which is now part of the Verdugo Hills Golf Course in Tujunga.

Julie Pritikan sings a song she composed about Tuna Canyon.

Julie Pritikan sings a song she composed about Tuna Canyon.

The newly formed Tuna Canyon Detention Station Coalition organized a potluck lunch last week to celebrate the anniversary at the San Fernando Valley Japanese American Community Center in Pacoima, where their monthly meetings are held.

David Scott, grandson of Merrill Scott, officer in charge at Tuna Canyon, was introduced by Dr. Lloyd Hitt, the leader of the coalition and the Little Landers Historical Society. Scott brought a beautiful yellow vase that was stored in a hand-made box. The vase was presented to his grandfather by Japanese immigrants for his fairness and kindness. A single candle flickered nearby in Officer Scott’s memory.

Nancy Takayama of the JACL Pacific Southwest District introduced Rose Ochi of Friends of Manzanar, who recounted the political process spearheaded by then-Councilmember Richard Alarcon.

Keynote speaker Kanji Sahara of the JACL Pacific Southwest District spoke about the long legislative road that the Issei endured en route to U.S. citizenship in 1952, citing the 1913 Alien Land Law, which has been repealed in all states except Florida.

Suzy Katsuda from Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress noted that the PowerPoint presentation was thorough and revealed little-known Japanese immigration facts. Dr. David Yoo, director and faculty member of the UCLA Asian American Studies Center, complimented Sahara for describing the racism and isolation that occurred before and after World War II.

Rose Ochi, who was involved in Manzanar's designation as a historic site.

Rose Ochi talked about the political process of getting official recognition for Tuna Canyon.

Sahara concluded his presentation by announcing Historic Wintersburg in Huntington Beach was included on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of the 11 most endangered historic sites in the nation. Tad Kowta, who lived in the manse of Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Church, spoke about his personal story and the importance of preserving this Japanese American community landmark.

Family members of Tuna Canyon detainees were introduced and were each given a red rose in memory of their fathers. They were: Ken Furutani, Haru Kuromiya, Nancy and Patty Takayama, Jane and Matt Nishii, David Scott, Min Tonai, Ted Yamane, and Sumi Yamaguchi.

Julie Pritikan performed an original song called “Three Trees,” which captured a tragic image that Tuna Canyon’s mature oaks and sycamores witnessed more than 70 years ago — Japanese, German and Italian immigrants, Japanese taken from Peru, and others, mostly men, imprisoned there in violation of their civil liberties.

The Tuna Canyon Detention Station Coalition is grateful for the community’s demonstrated support during hearings at Los Angeles City Hall, the purification ceremony at the golf course, and the multicultural panel discussion at SFVJACC.

Members have assisted the children of the detainees in securing their fathers’ “enemy alien” files. Michael Kinoshita of San Diego has begun preliminary renderings of the coalition’s vision of creating a walking trail under the grove of trees at Tuna Canyon, but immediate memorialization as recommended by the City of Los Angeles has been delayed by the property owner’s lawsuit against the city.

Snowball West Investments says that it recognizes the historic/cultural significance of Tuna Canyon but maintains that formal landmark designation will hinder development of the property.

Photos by Marc Stirdivant

Left: Tadashi Kowta, a former resident of Historic Wintersburg. Right: Kanji Sahara of PSW JACL, who gave a talk on the Alien Land Law.

Left: Tadashi Kowta, a former resident of Historic Wintersburg. Right: Kanji Sahara of PSW JACL, who gave a talk on the Alien Land Law.

This vase was given to Merill Scott, officer in charge at Tuna Canyon, by Issei detainees.

This vase was given to Merill Scott, officer in charge at Tuna Canyon, by Issei detainees.

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