Name plates were used to identify each family's living quarters among the identical camp barracks. (From the collection of Allen H. Eaton)
Name plates were used to identify each family’s living quarters among the identical camp barracks. (From the collection of Allen H. Eaton)

The following letter was sent by members of the Japanese American community to David Rago, Suzanne Perrault and Miriam Tucker of Rago Arts & Auction on April 13.


We have learned that Rago Arts & Auction will put up for sale 450 prisoner craft objects, personal items, artworks and heritage artifacts from the Japanese American concentration camps of WWII in Lots 1232-1255 on April 17.

These items were given — not sold — to the original collector, Allen H. Eaton, under the assumption that they would be shown in an exhibition to tell the story of the mass, illegal incarceration.

“They offered to give me things to the point of embarrassment, but not to sell them,” Eaton wrote in his 1952 book, “Beauty Behind Barbed Wire: The Arts of the Japanese In Our War Relocation Camps.” Eaton was opposed to the mass incarceration and devoted himself to gathering examples of the creations that emerged from the camps, planning for a future exhibition and photographic display.

He received official support toward what was meant to be a public project, not the creation of a private collection. Selling these treasures of Japanese American heritage would contravene Eaton’s original intent.

The auctioning of our cultural property — handmade and donated by men, women and children whom their own government held against their will — is wrong. There is no time before the auction to properly examine issues including provenance, ethics, and the propriety of disposing of our cultural patrimony by selling it off to the highest bidder.

We request that you pull these lots from the auction and delay the sale until a proper examination can be undertaken.

Auctioning these cultural products of the forced removal and incarceration is akin to auctioning Holocaust property, slave shackles, and Native American spiritual artifacts. The Archaeological Resources Protection Act and the Locke, Calif., “right of first refusal,” enacted against California’s Alien Land Laws, sought to rectify similar abuses.

Placing this historical heritage on the auction block sullies the reputations of both Eaton’s descendants and Rago Arts. The pending sale of these donated objects has caused anguish and outrage in our community, which is being expressed in letters, petitions, news coverage and a Facebook page, “Japanese American History: NOT for Sale,”

Our community’s goal is to educate and correct, not to vilify or cast blame. We urge you to pause the rush to auction, in the spirit of making this right for everyone.

Ad Hoc Committee to Oppose the Sale of Japanese American Historical Artifacts

Satsuki Ina, Ph.D., professor emeritus, CSU Sacramento

Chizu Iiyama, Japanese American redress movement leade

Laura Iiyama, community advocate

Nancy Ukai Russell, journalist

Barbara Takei, preservationist/historian

Dale Minami, Minami Tamaki LLP

Tom Ikeda, executive director, Densho

Yoshinori H.T. Himel, attorney

Emiko Omori, filmmaker, “Rabbit in the Moon”

Chizu Omori, columnist, filmmaker, “Rabbit in the Moon”

The Tule Lake Committee Inc.

The Manzanar Committee

Priscilla Ouchida

Patty Wada

Japanese American Citizens League, Honolulu Chapter

Japanese American Citizens League, San Francisco Chapter

Nicole Gaddie, JACL national youth Chair

Judy Hamaguchi, co-president, San Francisco JACL

Janice Luszczak, co-president, Sacramento JACL

Roberta Barton, governor, Central California District Council, JACL

Paul Osaki, executive director, Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California

Sacramento CAPITAL Foundation

Karen Korematsu, founder and executive director, Fred T. Korematsu Institute

Laura Kina, Ph.D., Vincent de Paul Professor of Art, Media and Design, DePaul University

Soji Kashiwagi, executive producer/writer, Grateful Crane Ensemble

Nancy Araki, director emeritus, community affairs, Japanese American National Museum

Art Hansen, Ph.D., professor emeritus, oral history and Asian American studies, CSU Fullerton

Aggie Idemoto, Ed.D., president, Japanese American Museum of San Jose

Tetsuden Kashima, Ph.D., professor, American Ethnic Studies Department, University of Washington

Roger Daniels, Ph.D., Charles Phelps Taft Professor Emeritus of History, University of Cincinnati

Greg Robinson, Ph.D., associate professor of history, l’Universite du Quebec at Montreal

Janice Mirikitani, founding president, Glide Foundation, and second poet laureate of San Francisco

Frank Abe, journalist, filmmaker, “Conscience and the Constitution”

Aiko Yoshinaga Herzig, archivist and researcher for Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians

Don Hata, Ph.D., emeritus professor of history, CSU Dominguez Hills

Lane Hirabayashi, Ph.D., Asian American Studies Department, UCLA

David Yoo, Ph.D., director and professor, Asian American Studies Center and Department, UCLA

Vivienne R. (Lie) Schiffer, Thompson & Knight LLP, filmmaker/author

Franklin S. Odo, Ph.D., Amherst College

Roger Shimomura, distinguished professor of art emeritus, University of Kansas

Hatsuko Mary Higuchi, artist

Cherstin M. Lyon, Ph.D., associate professor of history, CSU San Bernardino

Garrett Hongo, distinguished professor of the College of Arts & Sciences, University of Oregon

Noriko Sanefuji, Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History

Phil Tajitsu Nash, Asian American Studies Program, University of Maryland

Evelyn Nakano Glenn, professor, ethnic studies and gender & women’s studies, UC Berkeley

Michael Omi, professor, ethnic studies and Asian American & Asian diaspora studies, UC Berkeley

Claudia Nakano, Utah Governor’s Office of Minority Issues

Barbara Johns, Ph.D., art historian, curator, author

Renee Tajima-Peña, director, center for EthnoCommunications, Endowed Chair in Japanese American Studies, UCLA

Jill Shiraki, Preserving California’s Japantowns

Stan Shikuma, Seattle Kokon Taiko

Gail M. Nomura, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of American Ethnic Studies, University of Washington

Stephen H. Sumida, Ph.D., professor, Department of American Ethnic Studies, University of Washington

Sojin Kim

Mitchell T. Maki, vice provost, academic affairs, CSU Dominguez Hills

Eiichiro Azuma, Ph.D., Alan Charles Kors Term Chair Associate Professor of History, director of Asian American Studies, University of Pennsylvania

Robert Rusky, attorney, San Francisco

Karen Kai, attorney, San Francisco

Diane Matsuda, board member, Japantown Foundation, former program director, California Civil Liberties Public Education Program

Minidoka Pilgrimage Planning Committee: Dale Watanabe, Gloria Shigeno, Stephen Kitajo, De-Nice Quach, Keith Yamaguchi, Ryan Kozu, Anna Tamura, Emily Hanako Momohara, Jamie Ford

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