EXCLUSIVE: A year after national park designation, Honouliuli preservation underway

EXCLUSIVE: A year after national park designation, Honouliuli preservation underway
Published: Mar. 29, 2016 at 8:06 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 29, 2016 at 8:32 PM HST
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(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

KUNIA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Some 400 civilian internees and 4,000 prisoners of war were confined at Honouliuli Internment Camp before it was closed in 1946.

Long gone are the tents and compounds that stood through the end of World War II. Rock walls, concrete foundations, and a water aquifer still stand, all haunting reminders of a dark part of Hawaii's past.

"There was a great stigma placed on the internees, on those incarcerated as well as their families," said Carole Hayashino. of the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii. Most of the internees were Americans of Japanese ancestry who were confined on suspicion of being disloyal.

On Tuesday, former U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta toured the grounds of Honouliuli, which was designated a national monument in 2015.

Mineta was a young boy when his family was confined in an internment camp in Wyoming.

"When I think about our own internment on the mainland and seeing the pictures and the conditions here at Honouliuli, it was so much worse," Mineta said.

The National Park Service oversees Honouliuli. It's in charge of preservation and restoration -- and the park's plan for the future.

"In the years to come we're going to be working on not only developing  the site for public access, but we still have a lot of archaeological work that needs to be done," said Rebecca Rinas, of NPS.

Public access is still years away.

In the meantime the Japanese Cultural Center is planning for that day, and developing an education center at its offices in Moiliili.

"We will provide an overview of Honouliuli," Hayashino said. "While it may be difficult to visit the physical site, we'll have virtual tours, videos, for visitors to see and visit Honouliuli."

Mineta said Honouliuli is a stirring reminder that Americans were deprived of their rights, simply because they looked like the enemy.

"Hearing what's going on in the present political climate and thinking of the possibility of this, some of these things even occurring again, is just horrifying," he said.

Seed company Monsanto donated the nearly 120-acre site that encompasses Honouliuli. The company is turning over 20 more acres that will eventually be a public access route to a piece of history.

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