Manzanar National Historic Site is part of the U.S. National Park Service and preserves the stories of its past as an internment center for people of Japanese ancestry during World War II. President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the U.S. Army to remove Japanese Americans from their homes in California and send them to camps where they were incarcerated, without trials or convictions and held against their will simply for being who they were. This happened, of course, because of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Today is the anniversary of that attack which is why I am writing this post. In general, I try to avoid topics that are painful (at least for this blog) but sometimes, well, sometimes we need to remember.
The National Park Service provides an after hours, self-guided driving tour of the park that allows you to see 27 points of interest along a 3.2 mile loop. I arrived at Manzanar after the park’s Interpretive Center was closed, so this gave me a chance to see some of the outside exhibits and get a sense of the place.
One of the barracks.
I don’t know if it was because I had been driving non-stop from Tahoe and was in a bit of a driving trance or because of the looming storm clouds or because of the depressing story I had just read about the place’s earlier history as the site of another forced relocation, this time of the Owens Valley Paiute, who along with other native peoples in the region, were forced at gunpoint by the United States Army to walk almost 200 miles to Fort Tejon, but I felt an incredible sadness as I drove through the place.
If you haven’t had a chance to see the eastern Sierras and Owens Valley, I strongly suggest that you do. It’s a little overlooked compared to the western side of California with its beaches, big cities and celebrities, but it has a rich history and incredible scenery.