(Mis)Representing History: Forced Removal of Japanese Civilians

Have you ever been to the Washington State Fair? If you have, you’d probably recognize the sights and smells– the roller coasters and grandstands, the food and the animals.

The Washington Fairgrounds are old, over 100 years old, as fairgrounds tend to be used again and again for many different uses. What may be shocking is that part of the Washington State Fairgrounds’ history includes a brief interlude in which it was used to “roundup” Japanese Americans during the Second World War.

The language surrounding Japanese incarceration has been purposefully misleading as it distorts and softens the real experiences.One glaring example is how, at the time of the executive order and forced removal, President Roosevelt can be quoted on over a dozen occasions referring to the camps as “concentration camps” (Herzig-Yoshinaga 2009), but when a plaque was being commissioned for the historic site at Manzanar, the majority of the commission board balked at the notion of calling Manzanar a concentration camp.

This type of revision severely impacts the interpretation of the detainment era and impedes on the ability to tell the stories of people who were impacted by the xenophobic policies of our government, similar to glossing over the history of local sites such as the Puyallup Fairgrounds.

By revising the terms used to describe the incarceration of Japanese civilians during this period and by shedding light on just how close to home this history is to Seattle and other major cities, this piece of excluded past can be integrated into a more holistic understanding of our region’s and our country’s history.

Composite image of Japanese inmates in 1942 and the modern Puyallup fairgrounds courtesy of the Washington State Historical Society.


Letter from the Past

As far as memory goes, both sides of my family have lived in the state of South Dakota. So when, as a newly graduated and married couple my parents decided to move to Seattle, they were traveling as far from family as anyone remembered. Even so, I was able to know most of my extended family– all except my maternal grandfather, pictured to the right. All I knew was from stories or from newspaper clippings. He served in the Second World War, and like many vets, he didn’t tell many stories of his time in the Pacific Theater.

Recently, my mother’s cousin rediscovered letters that he had written to his sister during the war. It was incredible to read what he told her– of feeling homesick while based in Hawaii, and how training was going in Bremerton, Washington. My mother never realized that he had been stationed in the area until we were reading those letters together. Suddenly, my family history did not feel quite so far away. Even though I never met him, it seems my grandfather and I have overlapped in even the smallest of ways.

Listen to my story here!


Collaborative Storytelling Through Archaeology

Collaboration during archaeological projects have not always been valued, but today archaeology students, like us, learn that we not only can learn more from communities we study, but we can help bring knowledge back into that community. Valuing the assets that community members means taking time to meet with them, take into account the emotions brought up by these projects, and learning how to compensate them. Although there are challenges faced on both the community and the archaeologist’s part of collaboration, the transfer of knowledge makes the stories told by the project at the outcome that much more valuable.

I thought it was particularly important how Professor Gonzalez talked about not only compensating communities with a return of traditional knowledge, but also financial recompense. Sharing histories and personal stories is a form of labor that should be respected and treated as such, as is the time that community members take to meet with archaeologists and any other academic studying their culture or history.

Museums, too, play a major role in the collaboration between indigenous people and academia. This quarter, I have been able to see how the Burke Museum collaborates with the communities from which collections objects originate. One of my classmates, for example, is part of a Oceanian student research group that conducts research on objects in the Burke’s collections. The meaning and understanding that they gain is often through stories that the students are able to tell. The Burke Museum also collaborates with the public so that objects that members of the public are culturally associated with can come and view the objects in person. The open relationship between academia and the public also extends to museums and other institutions, and I think our very own Burke Museum is a good example of such a relationship.

Lordly Liquor

The bottle that I thought was most interesting from my selection was a squat liquor bottle. The shape has a lot of character, as it has a uniquely bloated neck. It doesn’t have any seams, but the valve mark and striations seem to suggest a turn paste mould.

The wax or paper label still present on the bottle’s finish gives the most insight into its origin. It reads “House of Lords SCOTCH WHISKEY.” Evidently, the House of Lords was a line of whiskey marketed by the UK based Edradour liquor company through at least the 1970s. Below is a comparison of a bottle of this line from the 1970s and this one, likely from between the 1870s and approximately 1916.

The bottle was manufactured by the Edradour liquor company based in the United Kingdom, which still sells fine liquor today. However, all of the modern liquor bottles are clear or lightly tinted, unlike the dark coloration of this bottle, which may suggest it contained liquor meant for domestic sale.

This liquor in these bottles was probably consumed in the United Kingdom in public settings, such as pubs, or in the private parlors. These days, a bottle of Edradour liquor is between 15 and 400 euros, with the majority of the bottles costing between 40 and 70 euros.

Here are the two bottles of similar shape and function from perhaps 100 years apart. On the right there is a 1970s House of Lords scotch whiskey bottle and below is the c1900 House of Lords scotch whiskey. As you can see, the 1970s one still has the bulbous neck, but is clear and has a paper label on the body (still). It’s shorter and has more square shoulders, yet the similarities are still quite visible.

Remembering Our Relatives

I looked at the frequency of different terms of kinship in the Calvary Cemetery this week, tracking when and how often different terms were used. Below are the total occurrences of each term, followed by a graph track when the 6 most common terms were used:

Mother- 18
Daughter- 6
Son- 4
Husband- 4
Wife- 3
Sister- 3

It’s interesting to see spikes in the term “Father” yet observe that “Mother” is still used more often. The spikes are between 1945-1949 and 1955-1959. Seeing that almost half of the occurrences of the term “Father” occur in these specific times, it may indicate that either more fathers were being interred, or it was more popular to emphasize this kinship at those times, whereas mother is a more constant term being associated with the deceased.

It was particularly interesting to see how few extended male family members had those relationship named on their tombstones– specifically, there was one occurrence of the term “aunt” but not one “uncle,” and there was one “granddaughter” but no “grandson.”

I wonder what this means in regards to how we see women in our lives, and women in our family history. Is there really that much more emphasis on how they’re related to the living, or does this sample skew society’s view of women?

The Bus(c)h Hotel

The “Modern Fireproof” Bush Hotel as seen today

When you come out of the station in International District today and head east, you will probably spot the “Modern Fire Proof” Bush Hotel. Today, it is Section 8 housing for lower income residents, but it did not start out this way.

A clipping from the Seattle Daily Times October 10, 1915

In fact, it didn’t even start out as the “Bush” Hotel. When it was built in 1915, William Chappell named it the “Busch” Hotel, as can be seen in the newspaper clipping advertising the new hotel below.  Beginning the very next year in 1916, women’s clubs began hosting events in the Busch Hotel, including a post card party. After the name was changed in 1921, it was renovated with “local products,” likely local lumber and finishes.

The “Busch” Hotel is seen down the street. Property of the Museum of History and Industry

In 1926, according to an article in the Seattle Times from 1976, one Kemekichi Shibayama leased the building for thirty-five thousand dollars and reconditioned it for sixty-five thousand. However, as the Depression and Second World War came up, Mr. Shibayama had to give up the hotel for a time.

In 1978, articles in the Seattle Times began discussing the renovations of the International District overall. The Bush Hotel (wrongfully referred to as a “pre-1910 building”) was being looked at as a new community center as the upper levels had not been used for years. City officials were concerned about the integrity of the building. As of September, 1978, the Times announced plans to convert the hotel into a mixed purposed building including residential rooms and community spaces as it had been acquired by the city and they had gained federal funding to create more affordable housing developments in the District.

The Bush Hotel c. 1925

Today, the Hotel still stands as one of the most prominent buildings in the International District, having survived through multiple renovations since its original opening in 1915, and now serves as affordable housing.

The Bush Hotel as it underwent innovations in 2005

What does your trash say about you?

Certainly, your trash can answer mundane questions. If you find a candy wrapper in some hidden trash can in the laundry room, you might discover someone has been sneaking treats. You might sneak through your neighbor’s—though that is ill-advised—and find out something surprising about them! Trash has even been seen as a window into the lives of our favorites celebrities: how else would we know that Bob Dylan once misspelled vanilla as “vannilla”? (Rathje 2001, 17)

However, archaeologists have been using trash to gain even deeper insights into the day to day lives of people. In fact, archaeology of garbage makes up most of our understanding of past human lives outside of written record and living structures! Just think, every activity you’ve ever done likely resulted in some amount of garbage, which was deposited along with the garbage from everyone else in your area for that entire day. What would that kind of material tell us about the people in your area?

By itself, refuse can show us what people are eating, what people are wasting, and what people are reusing. However, archaeologists also relate current events—such as food shortages—to their data to see how different stressors affect habits in regards to refuse! Do people waste more of the breads they regularly buy, or specialty breads like hot dog buns or pretzel rolls? Does a shortage in sugar cause less or more sugar to be discarded? Trash reflects some quirks and irrational behaviors people pick up under different conditions such as shortages or repetitive diets.

Challenge yourself to consider what your trash says about you this week. Its stories might surprise you!

About Emily


Emily is a third year undergrad double majoring in Archaeology and American Indian Studies. She was born and raised in the greater Seattle area, but just moved to the city this year after transferring from Highline College, where she earned an Associates of Arts in Anthropology. She is still exploring her specific research interests, but at this point she is particularly interested in indigenous archaeology.

blogShe loves travelingg, hiking and collecting action figures. She has travelled to South Korea, Iceland and Switzerland and looks forward to traveling more in the future.