Densho Digital Archive
Twin Cities JACL Collection
Title: Helen Tanigawa Tsuchiya Interview
Narrator: Helen Tanigawa Tsuchiya
Interviewer: Megan Asaka
Location: Bloomington, Minnesota
Date: June 16, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-thelen-01-0012

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MA: And, so Gila was on a reservation, you said. Did you ever come into contact with the Native American people living there?

HT: Well, there was one incident that happened was there was this 3 year old little girl, Indian girl, used to go up to the, ride her pony with her grandpa, and come up to the barbed wire. And then all the little kids would go over there and then they'd try to touch the pony and they had a real good time. And that girl became a nurse and she wanted to meet somebody that was in camp when she was three years old. And that's what I have in there, picture. So we went and says, "Okay, I'll go." Because my kids, my son said he'll take me because he wanted to see where I had lived, the dentist son, and his wife and my grandson. So I have a whole bunch of pictures of that. And she was so happy to see me, even if I wasn't the little person. And she's a nurse on the Indian reservation now. She says she'll never forget that.

So the girl that took us there, she had a grant to write (Stories from Both Sides of the Barbed Wire Fence). So she wrote a book and I bought that book here to talk about the Indian reservation. And we visited the Indian reservation, they were so nice to us. So I got to know them. But I didn't know at the time. In fact, I didn't even know we were on an Indian reservation until later on. We thought when we left the, left the barbed wire I thought we were someplace else, but still it was Indian reservation.

MA: So when you describe talking about going to that small town with the seniors on skip day, was that a reservation town?

HT: It was still a reservation town. I think it was part of a reservation, I think, Sacaton.

MA: So do you remember the people there and interactions with them?

HT: Yeah, we saw some. They were running around all over. But it was, I'm sure it was on the reservation, that's the way I think, but it's Sacaton. In fact, some of the teachers, they went out there in Minnesota, they went out there and they, I looked at some of the pictures and then it said Sacaton on that. I said, "You were there? I was there." So, right now, whether it's still reservation, I really don't know. But I thought it was at that time. But they, when we went visiting there they had all kinds of stuff there. It's really grown. And I went to see the railroad station. And it was, all those pictures, you have to see it. It's really taken, and we took a picture of all the, the Japanese people that made all kinds of holes under their, to store things, under their, I took all those pictures.

MA: And that's all still there?

HT: Yeah, they're all... I took some pictures and there's some names. I said, it would be fun for the person that saw that. But the Indian reservation people do not want people to come in. They have to have special permission to go in. 'Cause there are some people that come in, just sneak in and vandalize. There's nothing to vandalize, but they want to smoke and all kinds of stuff. But I know exactly where my barrack was. And I knew where the administration building, where the school was. It's just a blocks. There isn't that much stuff. But it was good, it was sort of like a closure for me.

MA: And when did you take this trip back to Gila River?

HT: That was in, when my grandson was three, three and a half and he's thirteen, so ten years ago. And it was really, my son said the same thing, he said it was so good that, "Now I know what you went through." Yeah, he wanted to come yesterday, but he had a ball game. And I was already sleeping at 9:30, he calls me up and says, "Oh, did I wake you?" I says, "yes." And then he says, "Kyle went 3-for-3." He's a very good athlete, that little boy.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.