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Curious Mind: Why is the Minidoka Internment site in Jerome County?

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Minidoka National Historic Site

From left, Mess hall and one of the barracks can be seen at the Minidoka National Historic Site Thursday, May 25, 2017, near Eden.

Q: Why is it called Minidoka Internment National Historic Site when it’s in Jerome County?

A: “When WWII started, the U.S. government decided to take all U.S. people of Japanese ancestry living on the West Coast to protect them. There is an internment camp in Jerome, Arkansas, so when the government decided on the low populated area in southern Idaho large enough to hold almost 10,000 people, ‘Jerome’ was already taken,” said Linda Helms, Jerome County Historical Society Museum Curator.

“Since the internment camp area in Jerome County was originally Minidoka County, that was the name chosen. Locally the area has always been known as Hunt, because of the Wilson Price Hunt exploration of 1811 who lost a man at Cauldron Linn, in the same area as the internment camp,”

According to the National Park Service’s website, “The Pearl Harbor attack intensified existing hostility towards Japanese Americans. As wartime hysteria mounted, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 forcing over 120,000 West Coast persons of Japanese ancestry (Nikkei) to leave their homes, jobs, and lives behind and move to one of ten prison camps spread across the nation all because of their ethnicity.”

“Minidoka National Historic Site was given its name in a way by the Bureau of Reclamation,” said Annette Rousseau, education specialist for the Minidoka National Historic Site. “On April 22, 1942, negotiations between the Bureau of Reclamation and the War Relocation Authority were initiated to discuss the siting of a War Relocation Center at the BOR land between Jerome and Eden. The Bureau of Reclamation wanted the area to be turned into farmland and they called it the Minidoka Reclamation Project. It is believed that when the War Relocation Authority agreed on this site it was simply named Minidoka War Relocation Center.”

“It was proposed that thousands of acres would be under cultivation by 1943 and would produce most of the food necessary for the incarcerated community. The Minidoka Reclamation Project area was finally negotiated to include 34,063.35 acres and the central populated area encompassed 946.3 acres (BOR Minidoka Annual Project History, 1942),” Rousseau wrote.

Have a question? Just ask and we’ll find an answer for you. Email your question to Kimberly Williams Brackett at with “Curious Mind” in the subject line.


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