Scenes from Passing Poston

For the Media


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For the thousands of Japanese Americans forcibly interned during World War II, the scars have never healed.

For Ruth Okimoto the need to confront the past brings her back to the desert of Arizona where she spent her childhood years behind barbed wire. Back to the Colorado River Indian Reservation, where Poston was built. It is a journey Ruth takes, to find meaning in the inexplicable as she searches to discover the true story of how the Poston camp came into being.

Passing Poston tells the moving and haunting story of four former internees of the Poston Relocation Center. Each person shadowed by a tragic past, each struggling in their own painful way to reconcile the trauma of their youth, each still searching and yearning during the last chapter of their lives, to find their rightful place in this country.

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Quick Facts: Internment And Relocation

  1. Shortly after Pearl Harbor, on February 19th, 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. The order sanctioned the removal of all people of Japanese ancestry from the entire Pacific Coast.
  2. Almost 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans (62% of whom were United States Citizens) were given seven days to leave their homes. They were not told where they were going and were only allowed to bring with them what they were able to carry.
  3. These individuals were relocated and interned in one of ten hastily constructed internment camps throughout the country. These ten camps were located in:
    • ARIZONA: Poston, Gila River
    • ARKANSAS: Rohwer, Jerome
    • CALIFORNIA: Manzanar, Tule Lake
    • COLORADO: Grenada
    • IDAHO: Minidoka
    • UTAH: Topaz
    • WYOMING: Heart Mountain
  4. On December 17th, 1944, the US Supreme Court deemed the exclusion of loyal Japanese-American citizens unconstitutional. Through public proclamation 21, the internment came to end and Japanese internees were now free to return to their homes.
  5. On August 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed legislation apologizing for the internment on behalf of the U.S. government. The legislation stated that government actions were based on "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership", and beginning in 1990, the government paid reparations to surviving internees. Each internee was given on average $20,000.
  6. In the entire war, 10 people were convicted of spying for Japan, all of whom were Caucasian.

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About Poston

The untold story of how Japanese internees were used by the US government to help develop a Native American reservation.

The Poston Relocation center, built on the Colorado River Indian Tribes reservation, served as one of ten internment camps built in seven states. Between 1942 and 1945, the Poston camps housed over 18,000 Japanese and Japanese American detainees.

Unlike, the nine other internment camps, Poston was unique and was build with a very different purpose. It served as a place to house thousands of Japanese detainees but also the infrastructure created by and for them served to recruit more Native Americans from surrounding smaller reservations to the much larger and sparsely populated Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT) reservation, after the war.

The Japanese detainees held at the three Poston Camps were used as laborers to build adobe schools, do experimental farming, and construct an irrigation system that could later be used by the Native Americans, thus aiding the settlement of the area as planned by the Office of Indian Affairs (known today as the Bureau of Indian Affairs).

When the Japanese detainees were released in 1945, attention turned to settling the camps with Native Americans. "Colonists" (as the government referred to them) from the Hopi and Navajo tribes as well as other tribes living along the Colorado River tributaries. These people, in turn, moved into barracks built for the Japanese detainees. The colonists were recruited by the Office of Indian Affairs and lured by promises of fertile farmland and plentiful water. They joined the Mohave who had lived on the reservation since its creation in 1865, and the Chemehuevi who arrived shortly after 1865. The colonists found a working canal system to irrigate farmland, school buildings, and many other necessities for their relocation. For some from the less developed areas of other reservations, it was a step up with running water and the opportunity to farm.

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Story Angles

To arrange an interview with former internees or a representative of the Colorado River Indian Tribes :

Please contact:
Fly On The Wall Productions
(212) 929-0663

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Media Downloads

Download Hi-Res Press Materials (44 MB Zipped folder)

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Scenes from Passing Poston