“Only the Oaks Remain: The Story of Tuna Canyon Detention Station” opens Saturday, Dec. 10, at the Japanese American National Museum, 100 N. Central Ave. in Little Tokyo, and runs through April 9, 2017.
The traveling exhibit, which was recently shown in San Diego, tells the true stories of those targeted as “dangerous enemy aliens” and imprisoned in the Tuna Canyon Detention Station, located in the Tujunga neighborhood of Los Angeles, by the U.S. Department of Justice during World War II. It brings to life the experiences of the prisoners, who included Japanese, German, and Italian immigrants and Japanese Peruvians.
During the decade before the war, the U.S. government compiled lists of people seen as potential risks to national security. When the war began, Presidential Proclamations 2525, 2526, and 2527 authorized the FBI and other agencies to arrest such individuals — mostly spiritual, educational, business, and community leaders from the Japanese, German, and Italian immigrant communities. The government also rounded up Japanese and other individuals who had previously been forcibly removed from Latin America.
Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the Department of Justice took over a vacated Civilian Conservation Corps camp in Tujunga and converted it into a detention station by installing 12-foot-high barbed-wire fences, guard posts, and flood lights. The Tuna Canyon Detention Station became one of many initial confinement sites set up by the government. Targeted individuals were quickly arrested in their homes, leaving behind confused and frightened families; most detainees were later sent to Department of Justice or Army internment camps.
“Only the Oaks Remain” commemorates the history of Tuna Canyon and seeks to educate the public about the violation of civil rights that took place there. The special display features photographs, letters, diaries, interviews, and declassified government documents that serve to illuminate a largely untold story that goes beyond the more widely known story of the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans. A highlight is an Honor Wall that bears each detainee’s name, creating a contemplative space for viewers. By taking an unprecedented look at war’s impact on a disparate group of detainees, examining striking similarities as well as differences among them, the display encourages present and future generations to learn from the nation’s mistakes.
The exhibit is presented by the Tuna Canyon Detention Station Coalition, a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising public awareness about the site’s history. The group has already succeeded in having the site designated as Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument No. 1039 and is now working to develop a permanent Tuna Canyon Detention Station Memorial, which will include a plaque and educational posts installed along a walking path lined with mature oak trees, to further educate future generations. For more information, visit http://tunacanyon.org.
This project was funded, in part, by a grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program; and sponsored by the San Fernando Valley Japanese American Community Center.
Gallery hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday from 12 to 8 p.m.; closed Monday, Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Admission: $10 for adults, $6 for seniors (62 and over), students (with ID) and youth (6 to 17); free for children 5 and under and JANM members. Free admission every Thursday from 5 to 8 p.m. and all day every third Thursday of the month.
For more information, call (213) 625-0414 or visit www.janm.org.