The U.S. Forcibly Detained Native Alaskans During World War II
In the name of safety, Aleuts were held against their will under intolerable conditions in internment camps

Blakemore, Erin

Publisher:  Smithsonian
Date Written:  22/02/2017
Year Published:  2017  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX23758

A brief history of the internment of the Aleut people of Alaska during WWII.




The infamous Executive Order 9066, which singled out "resident enemy aliens" in the United States during World War II, forced 120,000 Americans of Japanese background into relocation camps like Manzanar. The EO targeted Americans of Italian and German ancestry, too, but also deeply affected another group of Americans—not because they were viewed as potential enemies of the state, but rather because indigenous Aleuts in Alaska were in a combat zone....

As the National Park Service writes, the internment camps the Aleut evacuees were forced to live in were "abandoned canneries, a herring saltery, and gold mine camp-rotting facilities with no plumbing, electricity or toilets.” There, they had little potable water, no warm winter clothing, and sub-par food. Nearly 10 percent of the evacuees died in the camps.

Those who lived struggled with the unfamiliar landscape. "The trees, more than anything, represented the strangeness and terror of their sudden relocation," writes Eva Holland for the Alaska Dispatch News. The Aleutians are barren, treeless islands; Southeastern Alaska’s trees led the detainees to feel claustrophobic and depressed. Some of the men were even enslaved during their detainment, forced to harvest fur seals and threatened with continued detainment if they refused.
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