At Bayer Hawaii, we understand the importance of remembering and honoring our history, even when it’s painful, so that we can learn from it to shape a better world for generations to come. Sally Martinez, Acting Superintendent of Honouliuli National Historic Site, perhaps said it best: “In memorializing prejudice, we warn and protect against repeating it.”
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Honoring and Preserving Hawaii’s History with the Honouliuli National Historic Site Blessing and Dedication
The Honouliuli Internment Camp is a very important part of Hawaii and American history. The site was Hawaii’s largest and longest-operating internment camp, operating from 1943 to 1946.
In 2007, Bayer’s predecessor purchased approximately 2,300 acres of land in Kunia that was zoned for agriculture, knowing that the remnants of the Honouliuli WWII Internment Camp site were located there. Bayer partnered with the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii and the University of Hawaii West O’ahu to preserve the land. In 2015 President Barack Obama designated it as a National Monument and Bayer transferred ownership to Federal Government. In 2019, Honouliuli was redesignated as the Honouliuli National Historic Site.
“Honouliuli camp is a very significant site within the larger Japanese internment story from WWII,” Jay Sturdevant, Integrated Resource Program Manager for Pearl Harbor National Memorial and Honouliuli National Historic Site explains. “There are currently seven sites in the National Park Service that are Japanese interment site-related, and Honouliuli is unique among them as it held POWs as well as citizens.”
While the site is not yet open to the public as construction is ongoing as of this writing, the community was recently given a preview of this space during a blessing and dedication ceremony. Bayer Hawaii, the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii (JCCH) and the National Park Service (NPS) partnered to bring this event to life, marking a significant moment in the preservation and celebration of the site.
“I found that it was a hidden history of Hawaii,” explains Carol Hayashino, President Emerita of JCCH. “We wanted to bring attention to that, to preserve the stories but also share them with the state of Hawaii and with other people throughout the continental US. People are not familiar with what happened, with the very unique experience of Japanese people in Hawaii during WWII.”
At the blessing and dedication event, dignitaries and community leaders who’ve dedicated their efforts to conserve the site gathered to pay respects as a plaque featuring historical information about the internment camp was dedicated overlooking the site. Kahu Kordell Kekoa lead a blessing of the memorial, and Rev. Edna Matsuoka led the Shinto blessing.
When the site opens to the public, visitors will experience the restored rock wall, an iconic part of the site, as well as a thoughtful seating area and a water feature symbolizing the flow of history and the continuity of memory.
The site aims to provide a serene backdrop for reflection and also for education. “There are a lot of humanities and social studies teachers who are very much interested in telling this story because it does relate to their backyard. It happened here,” shares Nate Gyotoku, President of the JCCH. “There are multiple confinement sites in Hawaii – every island had sites where Japanese Americans were held. It impacts the entire Hawaii community.”
Sebastian Guth, President of Bayer U.S., visited for the event and spoke to those gathered for the blessing and dedication. “From the pivotal moment when we transferred ownership of the 116 acres to the federal government, to the ongoing collaboration with esteemed organizations such as The National Park Service, JCCH and many many more, we have been, and will continue to be, committed to the mission of preserving and protecting Honouliuli. This memorial to us stands as a testament to our shared commitment to safeguarding the legacy of this place.”
“There are more than 600 Bayer employees in Hawaii, and many have contributed in countless ways to this undertaking - and they’ve done so because it mattered to them,” Guth added. “They’ve poured their dedication and their expertise into creating this memorial landscape and I want to specifically thank all of them as well as our site lead Serina and her remarkable team for their unwavering commitment to this place and history.”
Interested in learning more? Listen to the full episode of Sustaining Hawaii here.
Watch our Bayer Hawaii Hi Now Episodes here.