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7.29.2013

Uncovering the history of a forgotten internment camp



A powerful, important piece of history... In Idaho, researchers have uncovered the near-forgotten site of an internment camp where the United States government first used people of Japanese ancestry as a workforce during World War II: Kooskia Internment Camp Discovered In Mountains Of Idaho.

In the remote mountains of northern Idaho, archaeological work has been underway to uncover artifacts from the long buried, little-known history of the Kooskia Internment Camp, which operated from 1943 to the end of the war and held more than 250 detainees:

The camp was the first place where the government used detainees as a labor crew, putting them into service doing road work on U.S. Highway 12, through the area's rugged mountains.

"They built that highway," Camp said of the road that links Lewiston, Idaho, and Missoula, Mont.

Men from other camps volunteered to come to Kooskia because they wanted to stay busy and make a little money by working on the highway, Camp said. As a result, the population was all male, and mostly made up of more recent immigrants from Japan who were not U.S. citizens, she said.

Workers could earn about $50 to $60 a month for their labor, said Priscilla Wegars of Moscow, Idaho, who has written books about the Kooskia camp.
So far, the archaeological team from the University of Idaho have found items like Japanese porcelain trinkets, dental tools, gambling pieces and artwork. They're hoping to create a more complete picture of what life was like for a detainee at the camp. But more importantly, they're trying to make sure this dark chapter of America's past doesn't remain buried history.