A private ceremony was held Tuesday to dedicate Honouliuli National Monument.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Deputy Director of the National Park Service Peggy O’Dell joined Senators Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz, Gov. David Ige, community leaders and Monsanto Hawaii for the dedication.
“I think for a land that probably felt for some as it was cursed, it is now blessed,” Jewell said.
“I’m so proud to be able to participate here today. It will take awhile to develop the park but I’m certain the story of the internment here in Hawaii will be told for future generations,” Ige said.
Meanwhile, Monsanto Hawaii is working to donate an additional 22 acres to the site. Earlier, the agricultural company had gifted a total of 123 acres of land in Kunia to help preserve the site of the former World War II confinement camp for its historic value.
“It’s been over seven years since Monsanto pledged to work with the community to preserve the Honouliuli Internment Camp site for future generations,” said Alan Takemoto, community affairs manager for Monsanto Hawaii. “Back then, the idea of protecting Honouliuli as part of the National Park Service was just a vision that we shared with other members of the community. Today, after years of hard work and community partnerships, we’re excited to see it become a reality.”
The additional 22-acre donation is undergoing a subdivision process, which will pave the way for legal transfer of the land to the federal government.
Last month, President Barack Obama signed Proclamation 9234, officially establishing the Honouliuli National Monument under the National Park Service.
Jewell said “as one of the newest units of the National Park System, Honouliuli National Monument speaks of a painful but important chapter in our involvement in World War II – the unjust internment of Japanese Americans and other citizens whose civil rights were trampled by the prejudice and fear of the time. I applaud President Obama for establishing this monument and all of those in Hawai’i who worked so hard to ensure this place is preserved and the story is told for future generations.”
The 155-acre site, located at the bottom of a deep gulch not far from Pearl Harbor, opened in March 1943, and interned Japanese and European Americans and resident aliens, eventually holding 400 civilian internees and 4,000 prisoners of war. After the war, it was largely forgotten and overgrown with vegetation until it was identified in 2002.