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Japanese Ambassador tours United Tribes

3 August 2012

Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki points to Japanese writing etched into the brick wall of a building at United Tribes Technical College, the site of a former federal government internment camp during World War II. United Tribes President David M. Gipp at left. DENNIS J. NEUMANN<>United Tribes News

BISMARCK (UTN) – After 67 years, telltale signs of the Japanese interment can still be found at the former site of a government detention camp. The Japanese Ambassador to the United States helped shed some light on one fading piece of evidence during a visit to United Tribes Technical College.

Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki toured United Tribes July 30 as part of an official visit to North Dakota. The tribal college is the site of the former Fort Lincoln Internment Camp. While there, the ambassador translated some Japanese writing that still exists on one of the buildings.

During World War II, the one-time military post was rigged with fences, guard towers and barbed wire. Confined there were foreign nationals and some American citizens under the presumed authority of the Alien Enemies Act and Presidential proclamations. About 1,800 men of Japanese descent were held at Fort Lincoln between 1941 and 1946.

United Tribes President David M. Gipp and Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki at the college’s Native American art gallery. DENNIS J. NEUMANN<>United Tribes News

The Japanese internment is known to Japanese Americans and their relatives who experienced this sad chapter in American history, and to citizens of Japan. Ambassador Fujisaki said he is familiar with it and has visited several of the four-dozen, or so, camps in the United States.

Over the last 43 years under United Tribes, the brick and wood-frame buildings of Fort Lincoln were transformed to educate American Indian students and their families. While much renovation has occurred and many new facilities added, the old buildings have been maintained intact, offering glimpses into the past.

In the attic of one, the names of a few former internees are scrawled in pencil on the woodwork. In another there is German writing left behind by men of the other major ethnic group held at the camp. Meriting special attention on this visit was the five-character string of Japanese writing etched into the brick exterior of a barracks building.

“We were very honored to have the ambassador here,” said David M. Gipp, United Tribes president. “When we pointed out there was Japanese writing on a building, he was eager to see it and we paid close attention to what he said.”

Left: The five Japanese characters written into brick 67 years ago at Fort Lincoln are somewhat indistinct, as seen in this tracing. Right: The Japanese writing is seen clearly in this handwritten copy made by Ambassador Fujisaki.

After viewing the somewhat indistinct markings on the wall and a pencil tracing of them, Ambassador Fujisaki set about writing the characters clearly on paper. He accompanied that by translating them into this English phrase: “Young Volunteer Group for the Country.”

The hands that crafted the saying most certainly belonged to one of the American citizens of Japanese descent who was locked up at the camp near the end of the war. In 1945 about 750 mostly young men from other camps, who were considered disloyal, were sent to North Dakota and housed in Fort Lincoln’s barracks. They were known as “renunciants” for having renounced their U. S. Citizenship while in confinement.

Scholars and researchers explain that their action was motivated by loss of their civil rights as U. S. Citizens, resentment over the callous treatment they and their families received at the hands of the government, and other reasons. Their resistance led to further confinement at Bismarck where they left their slogan.

Over 20 years after the war, a federal civil rights case helped restore citizenship for nearly all who had lost it during the internment. The case found that renunciation of citizenship “under extreme duress” was unconstitutional. Legislation offering an official U. S. apology and reparations to Japanese Americans for their wartime internment was passed in 1988.

The Ambassador’s visit to United Tribes included a tour of the tribal college campus, where 1,200 American Indian students from tribes throughout the country are educated yearly. DENNIS J. NEUMANN<>United Tribes News

Ambassador Fujisaki encouraged United Tribes to continue working to preserve its history. The college plans to create an interpretive center that will help improve understanding about all of the uses that the campus site has served.

“It’s not every day that you get a visit from the Japanese Ambassador to the United States,” said Gipp. “We’re very encouraged by his remarks.”

The ambassador’s visit to North Dakota also included meetings with state leaders.


Most of the Japanese Americans who renounced their U.S. citizenship, including those men who ended up at Fort Lincoln, had been detained at the War Relocation Authority Camp at Tule lake, California. Read more about renunciation and internment at this link: http://gaylonn.com/tulelake/index.html