Everyone who knows anything about WWII knows about Japanese Internment Camps. Everyone reading this post, I’m sure, has an opinion about this chapter in our history: some think it was the right thing to do (under the circumstance), others think it was the entirely wrong thing to do. I’m not writing this to fish for your feelings on the matter. The fact is – it happened and it doesn’t matter one iota whether we think it was right or wrong. That’s the thing about history. Stuff happened. Lots of stuff, over long periods of time. And stuff is repeated – over and over and over again.
So, the Japanese camps . . . Let’s go way back in the Way Back Machine (Sherman). Now, this is a long and very complicated story in our history, so I’m gonna condense the hell out of it. In Colonial New England, in 1675 to be exact, there were two groups of people: Natives and European settlers. The Europeans in New England were almost entirely from England – a trend that started 50 years earlier with the first Pilgrims. The Natives, while all being Algonquin speakers (from scores of tribes) could be broken down into two groups: Indians still living in the “traditional ways”, and Indians who were converted to Christianity, the so-called “Praying Indians.” Those missionized Indians were relocated to “Praying Villages” and were encouraged to “live like English.” The most notable village: Natick, Massachusetts.
Peaceful co-existence that glued colonists and Indians together from the time of Massasoit and the Pilgrims unraveled completely over 50 years, culminating in Massasoit’s own son “Philip” leading a devastating armed rebellion against the colonies. The Colonies were immediately rattled, and military and civilian leaders scrambled to do everything they could to give themselves an edge. One solution: they rounded up all the Praying Indians, fearing they would help or join the natives, and led them off to “containment camps” across southern New England, in the late fall of 1675. The most notorious was Deer Island in Boston Harbor, a treeless island onto which at least 500 Indian men, women and children were dumped without any food and very little shelter. Christian missionary John Eliot was perhaps, the only colonist to visit, and he was terribly horrified by what he saw. Lacking food, shelter, clothing and clean drinking water, most died within the first few months of “containment.”