Posted: December 16, 1998
During the last decade, California State University, Sacramento professor Satsuki Ina has led more than a dozen three-day group experiences for survivors of America's World War II internment camps.
In them, small groups of Japanese Americans share their stories, many for the first time. They explore decades of internalized anger, grief and shame. And, hopefully, they begin to recover from lasting symptoms such as low-grade depression, post- traumatic stress disorder and anxiety about not fitting in.
"What I've been trying to do is help ‘get people out of the camps.' Many of us still feel imprisoned," says Ina, who was born in the internment camp in Tule Lake, Calif.
In May, the nation will get an inside look at Ina's work when a documentary titled Children of the Camps is broadcast on national public television. The 54-minute film is about one three-day session. It's interspersed with archival photographs from the CSUS Library's Archival Collection and video of one camp as it appears today.
The six internment camp survivors in the documentary include some who were born in the camp and others who were teenagers when they were torn from their homes. They gather for a weekend in Bolinas, Calif., and begin by sharing stories and artifacts from the camps.
Ina, a faculty member in the CSUS counselor education department, hopes sharing the experience of these Japanese Americans helps people understand the trauma of many ethnic minorities who face oppression. She also wants to show it's possible to experience healing.
The premiere of Children of the Camps is scheduled Feb. 7 at the Crest Theatre, and will be a fund raiser for Asian Pacific Community Counseling and the CSUS Archival Collection. The University will be treated to a preview later that month.
The film will be locally broadcast on Sacramento's KVIE Channel 6 on Feb. 19. That's the "Day of Remembrance" when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which ultimately led to the internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans, more than half of them children. The government asserted that they were a "risk to national security," though not a single Japanese American was ever discovered to have engaged in espionage or an act of sabotage.
"Part of the tragedy that is still so evident today is that Japanese Americans have an intense desire to be successful and to be accepted," Ina says. "They have learned not to take risks."
Ina speaks from experience. She was born in an internment camp, where she lived for almost three years. Her father was taken to a prisoner of war camp for German soldiers shortly after her birth, and Ina's earliest memories are of her mother's anxiety and fear.
Ina began her counseling sessions for other Japanese Americans after taking part in group work that explored childhood experiences.
The inspiration to make the film came three years ago from the producer of the documentary Color of Fear, in which minority men discuss racism.
Backed by a $362,000 grant from The California Endowment, Ina put together a crew that included director/editor Stephen Holsapple and creative producer Audrey Kasho-Wells, both of Sacramento. Also on the crew were Emery Clay as director of photography, Kim Ina as associate producer and Howard Fujimoto as financial manager.
The result was a film that vastly exceeded Ina's expectations. She had initially planned simply to distribute it to counseling centers, universities and similar institutions as a training video. Instead, the whole nation will have the opportunity to see it.
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