United Tribes Exhibit Promotes Human Rights

Feb 15th, 2004 | By | Category: 15-3: English Only?, Tribal College News
SNOW COUNTRY PRISON CEREMONY

HOPE FOR HEALING. Former Fort Lincoln internees cut a ribbon to open the Snow Country Prison Exhibit (left to right): Max Ebel, Tad Yakakido, Robert Ebel, and Hank Naito. Photo by David M. Gipp

Armed guards and a 10-foot tall chain link fence topped with strands of barbed wire kept certain people locked inside. It was 1941, and the U.S. Justice Department had converted Fort Lincoln near Bismarck, ND, from a surplus military post into an internment camp to detain people arrested in the United States as enemy aliens. During its five-year operation as a camp, the Bismarck, ND, facility housed about 1,500 men of German nationality and over 1,800 of Japanese ancestry.

Now Fort Lincoln serves as a college campus with stately buildings, American elm trees, and paved parking lots – home to United Tribes Technical College (UTTC). In keeping with the tribal college’s educational mission, UTTC hosted a major exhibition and public programs about the internment experience of German and Japanese nationals and Japanese American citizens at the camp.

The exhibition, “Snow Country Prison: Interned in North Dakota,” teaches about the government’s use of isolation and imprisonment against certain groups of people. Organized by the North Dakota Museum of Art and UTTC, the exhibition is sponsored by the Otto Bremer Foundation and the North Dakota Humanities Council. UTTC’s involvement stemmed from concern with the human rights issues. “There’s a low level of awareness these days about what went on here during the war,” says UTTC President David M. Gipp.

The exhibit features historic photos and murals of the camp, floor-to-ceiling cloth banners imprinted with images of people interned there, and wall text drawn from the haiku poems of one of the Japanese internees. It runs through November at UTTC and then will be exhibited at Grand Forks, ND, Moorhead, MN, and Minot, ND, in 2004.

For more information, contact the curator, Laurel Reuter, North Dakota Museum of Art, (701) 777-4195 or email ljreuter@ndmoa.com.

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