Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Henry Miyatake Interview VI
Narrator: Henry Miyatake
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: October 28, 1999
Densho ID: denshovh-mhenry-06-0003

<Begin Segment 3>

HM: During this same time sequence, I had a chance to talk to Sparky Matsunaga. And he came through to talk to the Nisei Vets in town. And I got fifteen minutes with him on the appointment schedule. And it ran to about two-and-a-half hours because he thought the issues were very important to Japanese America. And he was very empathetic with the position that we were taking. He was also fascinated with the amount of research that we had done relative to all the activities that we were talking about that pertain to -- in the question of Japanese American loyalty before and during World War II, things like the DeWitt testimony in the Supreme Court, you know, things of this nature.

TI: Now, was this the first time Sparky had really sat down and grappled with the issues of redress?

HM: Yes. Prior to that we sent him -- well, Thanksgiving weekend we sent out the Appeal for Action. This was the audio tape, as well as the transcript. And he had sent us a very nice letter. He must have really looked at that thing and listened to the tape because he was responding to the issues that we were undertaking. And I guess this is the reason why he gave me the fifteen minute appointment that, which ran to two-and-a-half hours.

TI: So he had already received materials from you, had sort of understood that, but this was your first face-to-face meeting...

HM: Yes.

TI: really discuss this in more detail.

HM: And he wanted to know various parts of the things that we were describing in the redress program. And at that point, Sparky was knowledgeable about the fact that some people in Hawaii were affected -- you know the people, the Isseis that were interned in Missoula, Montana and Santa Fe, New Mexico. He was familiar with that. And he was also familiar with the fact that there were people on Sand Island. But he didn't know what the numbers were, and things of this nature. But it was a kind of a good interchange of information between myself and Sparky. And I was very impressed with the fact that he would allow me to talk to him for the length of time that I had with him. And he kind of postponed the other scheduled parts of his appointment schedule. But I felt that he was gonna be the main focal point for any redress issues that would come to bear. And as history proves it, he was very influential, he was very responsive to our requests.

TI: Right, because in, later on in the U.S. Senate, especially, he was a driving force...

HM: Yes.

TI: ...for the bill.

HM: Yeah. In fact, Inouye -- because of his, after Sparky's passing -- felt obligated to follow through on it. And I was kind of disappointed from the congressional Nikkei congressmen because the response we received from the Appeal for Action didn't amount to very much except a form letter. And I was very depressed with the letter that Senator Inouye sent to us. And so anyway, I found out who the legislative aide was to Inouye.

TI: Well, I was gonna ask you -- because you say you were disappointed because you got a form letter -- but by this time you probably had a pretty good sense of how things worked in the political arena? I mean, you've done a pretty good job, it seems like, where you're emerging in terms of establishing personal relationships. I mean, your realization that sitting down with Sparky was important. You probably started seeing that you needed to go directly to the individuals?

HM: Well, I tried to get to Inouye when he was coming through Seattle. He went through Seattle several times. And Tak Kubota, who was active in the Democratic Party, he was our interface with Senator Jackson and Senator Magnuson. And, anyway I asked Tak for fifteen minutes with Inouye when he came through. For some reason or the other I was, they said, "Oh, he doesn't have the time. That's not the issue that he is interested in." All kinds of funny answers. But I tried maybe, maybe four times to try to get at least fifteen minutes with him. And Inouye at that time was doing a lot of work for the Indians, the Klamath tribe in Oregon, the Puyallups here locally, and some of the other Indian tribes relative to the Indian claims, Native American claims act, I guess. And I felt if he had known some of the issues that related to people even in Hawaii, that he would at least be somewhat interested in the fact that Hawaiians, or Japanese Americans in Hawaii were affected by this whole process. But I guess his public response, at that point, was the fact that that wasn't a major issue and he wasn't very interested in it. He was just the opposite of Sparky.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.