Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Art Okuno Interview
Narrator: Art Okuno
Interviewer: Kirk Peterson
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Date: September 1, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-oart-01-0024

<Begin Segment 24>

KP: So did you, did you get involved in the redress movement at all?

AO: Yeah. I was a member of the West Valley JACL. And some of the groups made excuses, said, "Oh, it'll never come about," because economics, it wasn't a good time to push for money, you know, but National said, well, let's go ahead and do it anyway. And we had congressmen in Congress that really helped us. I think that was it. In fact, President Reagan really signed the bill and what caused him to do that was someone reminded him that, he went to the cemetery to honor one of the boys that fought in Europe and Reagan remembered that and he, he signed the bill.

KP: What was your, what kind of role did you take in the redress movement? Did you speak, talk to people?

AO: There were two of us that really pushed it. He lives in Reno now, but, and myself, because there were some members in our club that sort of said, "No, we shouldn't do this. Times aren't right." And the JACL, of course, pushed it. In fact, before that there was a fellow in Chicago that was tryin' to get redress, too, but he wasn't having too much success. But when the national organization took over and had the support of Congress it really, it was a difficult job, but we did do it. So we asked for pledges from each individual chapters to support the movement.

KP: How'd that finally feel when Reagan signed that bill and sent out the apology letters?

AO: Yeah, from the beginning I felt letter is fine, but there should be something behind it, and I felt vindicated. I still have the letter. It's filed away.

KP: What'd you do with the money, if you don't mind me asking?

AO: It's in the bank, but then it was spent, I think. [Laughs]

KP: And you've continued, you mentioned earlier that you've talked to school kids about the camp experience?

AO: Yes. My wife and I, we both go around to, at their request, and we just recently joined the Japanese American Museum in San Jose, so we're, with their, I should say we work with them. They sort of inform us where we could go. We mainly go to the elementary up -- well, actually we've spoken to college and, college groups, high school groups, but recently it's more elementary, like sixth grade.

KP: So personally, who do you think's more responsible with, what do you think's more important to talk to, the sixth graders or the college kids?

AO: Well, both. The younger people, we try to encourage them to remember this and remember that things like this should not happen to anyone and, because eventually they will be voters. And same with the college kids, too, or junior high school, high school. Yeah.

KP: So have you ever been back to Heart Mountain?

AO: Yes.

KP: When did you, how many times and when did you go?

AO: Just once. Yeah, it's kind of out of reach. It's out of the way for us, but when they dedicated -- there's a monument there right now and they dedicated sort of like a walking path pointing out the highlights of the camp, where the camp was -- that's when we went. And Norm Mineta and Alan Simpson were there also, and Bill Hosokawa, who was the editor of our paper and the Denver newspaper editor also.

KP: We talked about this a little bit when we were changing tapes, but a question that came up when I was talking to someone last night was, he was wondering how is this story gonna be told in the future, how are people gonna remember this, the removal and incarceration of Japanese American people? If you could put a word foward in the future, or a sentence or a paragraph, what would you want people to know about this and how it affected you?

AO: Well, we're sharing our thoughts with the people because, like I said before, please be on alert when things like this come up again and hold to your conscience type of thing.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.