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“Executive Order 9066: Gila River”

Lynne Yamaguchi, woodturner

My connection to the Gila River Relocation Center comes out of my identity as a Japanese-American, rather than from any direct personal affiliation.

What speaks to me about the experience of the internees at Gila River? The contrast between their forced relocation and my chosen relocation to Arizona. The divided and hybrid identity we share as Japanese-Americans. The dislocation from home. The spirit of perseverance that allowed the internees, like native desert dwellers, to make a home in the most challenging of circumstances.

About the work


rice bowl: turned mesquite, broken and repaired with epoxy

teacup: turned mesquite

chopsticks: turned mesquite

The choice of mesquite for these items reflects the camp’s location in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert. The items themselves represent a family’s most basic shared activity. The backstory for the broken and repaired rice bowl lies in a tea bowl owned by Lynne’s grandmother. It had broken and been professionally repaired, conspicuously, with an adhesive mixed with gold. Rather than disguising the break, the repair thus emphasized it, signifying the value of this possession that was too precious to be thrown away.

tray: dyed and lacquered African mahogany

Although the wood is nontraditional, the style of the tray is like one Lynne’s grandmother used to use.

soil: collected from the site of the Gila River Relocation Center at Rivers, Arizona

barbed wire: hand-twisted aluminum wire

The understaffed camp didn’t have enough personnel for patrols, and after six months, the barbed-wire fence surrounding the camp was taken down.

glass beads:

stones: enameled and etched lampworked soda-lime glass; kanji characters hand-painted with vitreous enamel, flame-fused

A 55-gallon drum of stones painted with kanji characters was found at another camp, Heart Mountain, in Wyoming. The kanji on these stones signify such things as “perseverance,” “family,” “hope,” “dream,” “return,” and the like.

turquoise nuggets: enameled and etched lampworked soda-lime glass

These beads represent both the land where the camp was located and the Native Americans who lived there. The U.S. government established the camp on the Gila River Indian Reservation, despite the strong objections of the Gila River Indian tribe.

blossoms: lampworked beads using handmade murrini of soda-lime glass

pine needles: lampworked sculpted soda-lime glass

rabbit netsuke: tea-stained, lampworked sculpted soda-lime glass

These depict symbols of a former homeland and the beauty of a former life. The rabbit also reflects the local fauna.

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