Tucsonians


The Tucsonians are a group of Nisei draft resisters of conscience, self-named "The Tucsonians" because of their shared prison experience in the Tucson Federal Prison Camp, also known as the Catalina Federal Honor Camp, where they served sentences of six months to just over a year for Selective Service violations. The Tucsonians have held reunions beginning in 1947, continuing periodically through at least 2002. The Tucsonians included resisters from Topaz, Amache, and one resister from the Denver area and one from Poston. Over the years other resisters joined the Tucsonians for formal and informal gatherings. The majority of Tucsonians still living in 2002 attended the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) ceremony recognizing the resisters of conscience in an effort to apologize for the hostility with which the JACL treated resisters during and after the war.

The lasting legacy of the Nisei experience at the Tucson Federal Prison Camp was the feelings of closeness it created among those who shared in this experience. In 1947, Bill Nagasaki and Min Yenokida decided to organize the first reunion of the Tucsonians. They thought it was important for this group to stay in touch with one another. This created a lifelong association of resisters who gathered together periodically for more than fifty years. In 1960, two of the Tucsonians' Hopi friends joined them for one such reunion. Wives and children joined in reunion activities as resisters married and had children. Later, resisters from other camps, such as the Heart Mountain group joined the Tucsonians for gatherings, too.

In 1999, a broad coalition of National Forest Service administrators, Japanese Americans, community activists, journalists and scholars celebrated the renaming of the site where the Tucson Federal Prison had once stood. The site was renamed the Gordon Hirabayashi Recreation Site in honor of one of the prisons most notable former prisoners, Gordon Hirabayashi. In 2001, an interpretive kiosk was unveiled telling the history of the prison, of the wartime forced removal and detention of Japanese Americans, Gordon Hirabayashi's civil disobedience, and other wartime resisters who served time in Tucson, especially the Nisei draft resisters of conscience, the Tucsonians.

Authored by Cherstin M. Lyon, California State University, San Bernardino

For More Information

Lyon, Cherstin. Prisons and Patriots: Japanese American Wartime Citizenship, Civil Disobedience, and Historical Memory. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2011.

Burton, Jeff, et. al. Confinement and Ethnicity: An Overview of World War II Japanese American Relocation Sites. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2002; National Parks, http://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/anthropology74/.