Snow Country Prison Japanese American Memorial at Bismarck

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Bismarck, North Dakota, USA

During World War II, upwards of 4,000 Japanese Americans were subject to years of unjust incarceration at Ft. Lincoln, an internment camp and army base on lands taken from the Lakota and Dakota peoples in 1895. The Japanese American Internment Memorial at Ft. Lincoln presents an opportunity to convey the story of the Japanese American experience and to carry forward the spirit of ganbatte, a steadfastness in the face of adversity, across generations and cultures.

The Snow Country Prison Japanese American Memorial at Bismarck will enable a growth in participation and awareness of the site and the history it contains. It will invite offerings of tsuru (paper cranes), Native prayer ties, and other contributions as a call-to-action. The proposed design takes its cue from the craft of kintsugi, a process used in Japanese ceramics to mend broken pottery with gold-dusted lacquer. In so doing, the practice creates a bond that becomes an embodied record of its history and a new, dignified piece of its identity going forward.

Through a memorial wall, the design incorporates kintsugi as a gesture representing the bonding of cultures, communities, and individuals at a shared ceremonial and communal space that honors the layered history of the site, the spirit ganbatte exemplified by Japanese Americans incarcerated at the site, and the strength of the continued solidarity between Japanese American and Native American communities.

Project Details

46.80833, -100.78374

Location: Bismarck, North Dakota, USA

Year: 2021

Status: In Progress

Size: 6,000 sq ft

Program: Architectural and landscape design services for an outdoor memorial in remembrance of individuals of Japanese ancestry who suffered incarceration at Fort Lincoln.

Services: Research, Schematic Design, Design Development, Construction Administration

United Tribes Technical College

Japanese American Confinement Sites Committee, WSB Engineering, Tillett Lighting, Emanuelson-Podas, Inc.