Buddhist Priests Remember the Dead at Ft. Sill, Site of Next Prison Camp for Migrant Children.

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On May 12th, 1942 guards at Ft. Sill shot and killed Kanesaburo Oshima, a father of 11 from Hawaii, in the back of the head at the gates where 700 Japanese men, including 90 Buddhist priests, were held in the US Army WWII prison camp. 

On July 20th, 25 priests returned to perform a memorial ceremony.

They arrived in response to an open letter Rev. Duncan Ryuken Williams, Author of American Sutra, published after Tsuru for Solidarity gathered at the Fort last month. Rev. Williams explains

“For us Buddhist clergy, the horrific situation faced by the migrant children about to be transferred to Fort Sill prompts us to recall a time when the site was an internment camp for the Japanese during WWII. 

Of the 700 interned in Oklahoma, 90 were Buddhist priests rounded up by the government in the wake of Pearl Harbor. 

They wrote about their time at Fort Sill living in outdoor tents in windy heat without soap or toothpaste. Three men died in this camp in May 1942, two killed by guards. Buddhist priests are gathered on this occasion to remember the past and pray for a future so that history doesn’t repeat itself and that American belonging is free from racial and religious animus.”

 

The ceremony closed a day of action at Ft. Sill where nearly 500 people gathered from Tsuru For Solidarity, joined Dream Action Oklahoma, United We Dream, AIM Indian Territory, Indigenous Environmental Network, About Face Veterans Against War, Black Lives Matter OK and more to protest plans to make the military base the next prison camp to jail up to 1,400 migrant children.

Before it imprisoned Japanese men in WWII, Fort Sill served as an end point of the Trail of Tears for indigenous people forced to march on foot from their lands and became a boarding school forcing assimilation upon their youth. 

Together the groups marched to the fort’s gate and kneeled in silence as the priests chanted the Heart Sutra and hung a lei from Mr. Oshima’s family on the artillery at the entrance.

For more coverage of our Fort Sill action, see the below documentary short (video created by Evan Kodani)

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