Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Marianne West Interview
Narrator: Marianne West
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: Klamath Falls, Oregon
Date: July 2, 2000
Densho ID: denshovh-wmarianne-01-0010

<Begin Segment 10>

AI: Well now, jumping ahead in time, a great deal in time, I wanted to ask you how -- this is the second Tule Lake Pilgrimage you've come on.

MW: Yes, it is, uh-huh.

AI: But how did you happen to come to the first one that you went to last...

MW: Oh, my third daughter, Ella, that lives in San Jose, went to a fall festival. And the Tule Lake Committee had set up a booth, and she got the information. And up until that time, I was unaware of these pilgrimages that were going on. So she got the information, and she sent it to -- well, I think it's her fault that just the girls went because she didn't include the boys either. [Laughs] But we, we got together, and we decided we would go. Linda was unable, the oldest daughter was unable to come on the first one. But the other three girls and I came down. And the boys were upset, so we said we'd come down on the next one, so we came.

AI: So, what, how do you feel? What's your reaction from being here, coming back to Tule Lake?

MW: The second time is much easier. The first time, there were some moments that were kind of traumatic, seeing the barracks, and I still can't believe that seven people lived in the area that we lived in. And at one place, when they stepped on the barbed wire fence and opened it up for us to come through, I had moments then. And going through the camp, it was kind of hard, but this time it's much easier. And the children were never aware of my camp experiences. They knew that I had been in camp because when the -- what is that called? When Congress declared that they had made a mistake, and during that time they found out that I had been in camp. But even my husband was unaware of those three hidden years of my life. And so now more and more is coming out, and we sit and talk about different things. And I think it's hard for them to believe, too, some of the things that have happened.

AI: Why was it that you hadn't spoken about this before?

MW: Well, you know, I, I knew I didn't do anything wrong because I knew that if I had done something wrong, I wouldn't be so stupid that I'd be here in May, after Pearl Harbor in December, to get caught. I would've been long gone. But I knew I hadn't done anything wrong. But still, the stigma of being sent to a camp and being interned, there was just some feeling there that I still thought something was wrong. And for that reason, we never talked about it. And I've talked to other people, and I think they've done the same thing.

AI: But now that you're here...

MW: So now it's out in the open. It's, after the last pilgrimage, too, I also said that this was something I wasn't going to keep quiet. So I have been open about it in different areas. In fact, in September, I have a speech at a church about diversity, so I'm not being quiet anymore. It might be a little late, but it's better than never.

AI: What kind of reactions have your children had to the things you've told them?

MW: They want to know why I never said anything. And I just say, "Well, I don't know." And now all the questions are coming out, and so whatever they ask, I try to answer the best I can. And I think they're really interested. They seem to be taking everything in and asking questions. So I think it's great that these pilgrimages are happening, especially for the younger people. And if I should live long enough, I hope I can bring my grandchildren down. [Laughs]

AI: Tell me a little bit about your husband's reaction. You said that he also really didn't know what had happened.

MW: Well, he knew that I had come to Spokane, being released from internment camp. And that was all I told him. And if he asked, he didn't get any answers. And so he quit asking. [Laughs] So he's finding out more and more about it. His one reaction is, "Why do you want to go back to someplace that was so miserable for you?" And I said, "I'm going back to make sure it doesn't happen to other people." And he still says, "I don't know why you're going back down there." [Laughs]

AI: Well, if you were going to give some words of comment or advice to younger people now, is there something you'd like to say to them?

MW: I'd like to say that, you know, when God created us, He created us all equal. And this is something that we should remember, that everyone is a human being. Everyone has feelings. There is no difference, whether you're black, white, brown, yellow, green or purple. We're all human beings. And until the time that we take the time to understand each other and work together and give each other the respect that we should give, and then we'll receive it, I think everything will work out at that time. But as long as you try to stay in your own little clique and not worry about what's happening to anyone else, you're doing yourself harm as well as the other person.

AI: Well, thank you very much, Marianne. We really appreciate your time with us.

MW: Well, thank you.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.