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WWII internment of Aleuts

February 19th, 2004 · 4 Comments

Bainbridge Island, where we live, is historically significant because it was the first place where Japanese-Americans, under Executive Order 9066, were forced to leave for internment camps during World War II.

On the front page of today’s Seattle Times, the article WWII internments set Aleuts adrift from their islands discusses the experience of the Aleuts of Alaska, describing how they also were removed from their island homes and relocated to camps during the war. Aleut Alexandra Tu who now lives in Seattle talked about what happened to her family.

Today marks the 62nd anniversary of Executive Order 9066, signed by President Franklin Roosevelt, which sent 120,000 Japanese Americans to internment camps, ostensibly to prevent wartime sabotage and espionage. Smaller groups of Italian and German Americans were also interned during the war, but less is known about the forced evacuation of the Aleuts of Alaska.

“Most Americans have little knowledge about the incarceration of Japanese Americans. It’s fair to say even fewer know the hardships the Aleut Americans suffered during World War II. Their removal was done in haste and the conditions they faced in the centers were abysmal,” said Tetsuden Kashima, a professor in the American Ethnic Studies Department at the University of Washington.

In 1942, 881 Aleuts were removed from their homes in the western Aleutian and Pribilof islands, presumably for their own safety and military reasons, and relocated to camps in southeast Alaska. Unlike interned Japanese Americans, the Aleuts could leave — but most had no other place to go and remained in the “duration villages” until 1945.


“People were dying. And no one was helping us. How could this happen to our people? Our children? Our babies? I asked myself, ‘What am I doing here?’ And I wanted to go home,” Tu said.

But home as she remembered it no longer existed. Within a day of the Aleuts’ evacuation, some family homes had been burned and farm animals were slaughtered because the U.S. feared the Japanese would take them.


“There are times when I cry. But hopefully, telling this to people will help. They should hear. It shouldn’t have happened and shouldn’t happen again,” Tu said.

Tags: news

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Val Thomas // Mar 14, 2004 at 8:38 pm

    Hi – Was the Wrangell Institute, a BIA school property, used as an internment facility during WWII? Thanks!

  • 2 Val Thomas // Mar 14, 2004 at 8:38 pm

    Hi – Was the Wrangell Institute, a BIA school property, used as an internment facility during WWII? Thanks!

  • 3 arielle auburn // Apr 1, 2004 at 9:13 pm

    My mother Nina Peterson Berry is a Aleut, and went through the evacuation. Does anyone want to hear a story of abuse and tramatization? She is 81, and as a result of all of this, to this day is severly mentally handicapped. This is my precious mother and this makes me sick the things that were done to her and her family and fellow natives.

  • 4 Ally Turkington // Apr 30, 2004 at 2:41 pm

    Hi… I’m 17 and live in Soldotna. I am in world history at school in kenai and need a correspondant for the aluetians during WWII for a history project before May 10th. If anybody can help me out just e’mail me please with the subject titled: Aleut. Thanks a bunch!