Manzanar Committee welcomes removal of artifacts from auction

– Press release

LOS ANGELES — On April 16, the Manzanar Committee, sponsors of the annual Manzanar Pilgrimage since 1969, and the more recent Manzanar At Dusk program, joined the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation (HWMF), the Ad Hoc Committee to Oppose the Sale of Japanese American Historical Artifacts, and many other organizations and individuals in the community, in welcoming the removal of artifacts from the World War II concentration camps in which over 110,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry were unjustly incarcerated from the auction block.


The auction would have featured 450 prisoner craft objects, personal items, art works and heritage artifacts from the camps, which were given to Allen H. Eaton, the original collector, under the assumption that they would be put on exhibit to educate people about the Japanese American Incarceration experience, and not sold.

On April 12, the Manzanar Committee announced its opposition to the auction, calling on Rago Arts and Auctions to put an immediate halt to the auction of these artifacts. After just a few days of organizing and mobilizing, intense pressure on Rago and the consignor of the artifacts helped convince Rago to remove the artifacts from their April 17 auction.

“The HWMF and the many people who have supported us in the last few weeks are thrilled that the immediate risk to the collection has been averted, and we are appreciative of the wider Japanese American community’s concerns,” HMWF Chair Shirley Ann Higuchi said, in a statement. “We now turn to the challenge of securing the future care of the collection and protecting it in collaboration with all concerned Japanese American-related institutions.”

The threat of litigation also factored into Rago Arts and Auction’s decision to remove the artifacts from the auction block.

“Within hours after legal counsel for the HMWF communicated their intent to file a law suit, the Rago Arts and Auction Center announced that the auction items would be withdrawn,” the HMWF said, in a statement.

Like so many other Japanese American community leaders, Manzanar Committee Co-Chair Bruce Embrey welcomed the news.

“We are more than pleased that Rago Arts and Auction has decided to withdraw the artifacts from Friday’s auction, and has responded to the outcry from many, especially those who were unjustly incarcerated during World War II,” he said. “It is indeed perplexing that, in this day and age, some in our country know so little of our recent history that the idea of profiting from the sale of artifacts of this nature would be acceptable.”

Embrey urged caution and vigilance, noting that this struggle is far from over.

“While we salute Rago Arts and Auction for withdrawing the items from auction, we note that the artifacts are not yet in our community’s possession,” Embrey stressed. “We urge Rago Arts and Auction and the consignor to negotiate with the HMWF in good faith to reach a quick, honest, appropriate and just settlement.”

“We would also like to salute the HWMF, the Ad Hoc Committee, other community organizations, and all the individuals who banded together to effect positive change,” Embrey added. “We reiterate that whether it be Native American artifacts, or items from the Holocaust or Slavery, it is simply not acceptable for anyone to profit from the personal treasures or possessions of an oppressed people. The artifacts and possessions must be used to educate broader society about the true nature of America’s concentration camps. This was, in fact, the very reason Allen H. Eaton sought, and was given, these items.”

For more information, or to lend your voice to the cause, check out the Japanese American History NOT FOR SALE page on Facebook at


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27 Responses to Manzanar Committee welcomes removal of artifacts from auction

  1. Trouble April 16, 2015 at 4:42 pm #

    I’m glad these folks had the heart to do the right thing. Now if only DWP can decide to do so!

  2. crazy April 18, 2015 at 2:52 am #

    This is crazy! These items were given to Eaton.They belong to him and he should be able to do what he pleases with them, regardless of the nature of the artifacts. It is awful that this kind of BULLYING is tolerated. The Constitution reads that it is a violation of our civil rights to deprive a person from his or her property.

  3. allen April 18, 2015 at 5:41 pm #

    This is horrible! Every person has the fundamental right to equal protection of property. It is unlawful to deprive any person the right to use and enjoy their property, including the right to sell. If he is the owner he should be able to do whatever he wants with it regardless of the nature of the property.

  4. Low-Inyo April 19, 2015 at 8:13 am #

    Rago Arts and Auctions did the right thing by deciding to avoid litigation and not trying to sell and profit from these artifacts…GIVEN to Eaton with the intent of displaying and educating..not a lot different than those that steal,sell and profit (whether they say they do or not) when someone happens to dig up and take Native American artifacts …not the right thing to do…karma…and kind of a sleazy thing to do too….nothing to do with “civil rights” or anything written into the Constitution…Maybe it can also be loosly compared to artifacts recovered from the Titanic…Would it right for multi-million dollar companies to recover from that sight at the bottom of the ocean,bring them up and instead of displaying what they found in a museum try to profit off them and make money from their find ?

  5. Trouble April 19, 2015 at 3:49 pm #

    Allen- I think your lecturing out the wrong group about being deprived of equal protection of the law.

  6. Bob April 19, 2015 at 5:04 pm #

    Its a ugly slippery slope. what next?

  7. allen April 19, 2015 at 10:01 pm #

    low- it is entirely different than digging up artifacts! There is no comparision. They were GIVEN to him!! It is only alleged, the property was givin with the ASSUMTION, that they would be displayed. If that is the case, why is it only alleged and why hasnt it been proven? Eaton, who is a party in this matter, and excepted the gifts, and who would have more knowlege on this matter, apparently believed otherwise. It is absolutely a civil rights violation! How would you like it if you were told what you can or cannot do with your property? To be threatened and forced into a choice you would not have made otherwise. HELLO! People sell to museums all the time. Not all items are donated. Even museums can sell property. How do you think those multi-million dollar companies made their millions? I can not believe that people are not outraged. This is a perfect example of complete abuse of the justice system and goes to show that we DO NOT have equal protection of the law. If the Manzanar committee was interested in these items, then they should make an offer or place a bid.

    • John April 20, 2015 at 12:49 pm #

      Exactly. Anyone that agrees to this abuse of power should have their private property taken from them next.

      • Jeremiah Joseph April 20, 2015 at 2:46 pm #

        That Makes no sense John.

    • Outcry justified April 20, 2015 at 1:21 pm #

      Actually, allen, Eaton’s writing indicates that these arts and crafts objects were donated by Japanese American incarcerees explicitly for that purpose — to exhibit them in order to educate the public about their incarceration experience. For whatever reason, Eaton never got around to putting the exhibit together but he did publish a book on the arts and crafts he was given in a book titled “Beauty Behind Barbed Wire.” So no, it’s not unreasonable that there was major outcry regarding this sale.

      Additionally, I see no evidence that organizations/institutions/committees opposed to auction have violated anyone’s civil rights. What this article fails to mention is that the threat of litigation only came after the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation made good faith efforts to secure the collection by offering almost double what the estimated value of the 450 objects but even this offer was rejected by the seller. Filing a lawsuit when there is an injustice is not a violation of civil rights…it’s more than what Japanese Americans got during WWII when they were unjustly incarcerated en masse without a trial.

      As other commenters have pointed out, this issue isn’t about what the seller is legally able to do with the collection…it’s about doing the right thing.

    • Low-Inyo April 20, 2015 at 3:33 pm #

      allen :..If you re-read my comment,you’d see I said “not a lot different than those that dig up artifacts”,which,IMO, is correct.Now if Eaton goes to court on this I’m sure he can do as he pleases with “his property”,since they were given to him by someone hoping he’d “display and educate” and not turn around and decide to profit off them with some auction.So I agree,it is his property to do as he pleases,even if he lied about what he wanted to do with them when he accepted the items.He’s within his rights to do so.But it also makes him a sneaky,lying sleeze-bag…looking for the $$$$$$ and not doing the right thing.

  8. Allen April 20, 2015 at 3:11 am #

    There is a huge difference between digging up artifacts and recieving property from someone. So cut the crap. It can just as easily be assumed that had the previous owner wanted the items to be on display, they wouldnt have been given to Eaton. ASSUMPTION = presumption /to assume /guess / without proof. Property was given to Eaton (a fact we know), with the ASSUMPTION… There is not a “wrong” group, or “right” group when it comes to civil and equal rights and liberties. One cannot advocate equal rights for one group, and at the very same time, adversly deny equal rights to another. That is called discrimination. This is, without a doubt, a civil rights issue and also a perfect example of abuse of the justice system. Any person or agency who dilberatly deprives a person of their property is guilty of theft.

  9. ALLEN April 20, 2015 at 1:47 pm #

    Trouble- What do you mean the wrong group? We are talking EQUAL rights.

    • Trouble April 20, 2015 at 6:28 pm #

      Allen, not some, but all the Japanese Americans had all their property, houses, jobs and families taken from them. Many of them still volunteered to fight for us. None of them fought to stop their terriable injustice. If they don’t think it’s right for someone to make a profit off their misery, I totally agree with them. Besides it sounds like the dude trying to sell their stuff is still going to get compensated for the property.

  10. Steve April 20, 2015 at 2:00 pm #

    So they should go after Inyo Co. next. Because Inyo Co. sold entire buildings form Mazanar. These buildings were bought and moved to new locations all over the county.

  11. Jeremiah Joseph April 20, 2015 at 2:43 pm #

    See what I mean… Artifacts are not your Property! Have some respect for those before and after us, Oh wait? I keep forgetting, its all about the now! #ConsumerCulture

    If we as a society give the green light to profit from any and all significant artifacts, how long would it be before graves and other sensitive areas become Never More because of the monetary incentive? I mean we already have those types of individuals around that see no harm in it, just like the tobacco industry can see no harm in promoting their product because it makes them a lot of money…

    I feel the blatant disrespect to all that is sacred (Air,Water,Land, Relationships…etc..), can be attributed to the declining ecology our “entitled” convenient lives leave behind. Of course it is easier to turn a blind eye to such things when making you money, Right?

    Thats funny how people still act like the we are a nation ruled by the US constitution, that document was flushed down the white house toilet back in the mid to late 70’s thanks to supreme court rulings, remember when money was ruled equal to speech and when corporations were granted 1st amendment rights? Oh wait, I keep forgetting its all about what I can get NOW. If I’m making money who cares right? 1st 4th and 5th amendment have been decimated, but when it comes to the 2nd, hows it go? “over my cold dead hands” LOL….

  12. Low-Inyo April 20, 2015 at 3:37 pm #

    Jeremiah Joseph( I think I know you…Lone Pine ? )…..That is one GREAT post,dude !!!!

    • Jeremiah Joseph April 21, 2015 at 10:30 am #

      The two thumbs down is sayin “don’t you encourage him” :-).
      Thanks, and yep, LP Reserve is where I roam.

  13. allen April 21, 2015 at 12:13 am #

    What exactly is considered an artifact? Are you saying that items that once belonged to my great grandmother that were given to me, do not belong to me? outcry- in other words Eaton exibited these items in a book he published. By the name of the book, i am guessing, it is about the unjust incarceration of Japanese Americans during WW2? A book is far more informative than an exibit. Seems to me, Eaton has already done his part to educate the public. After all, he did write a book. jeremiah- if Eaton is all about profit…why hang on to these items for so long? And why bother writing a book? Maybe the items were going to auctioned for the purpose to exibit and educate? If the arts and crafts were auctioned, whos to say they wouldnt have ended up in the Museum of Natural History, or some other great museum that gets hundreds of thousands of visiters each year? As far as the foundation making a “good faith offer double the value” that is crazy too. Because they didnt get what they want and the offer was declined they threatened to take legal action, eliminating a fair chance to any other interested parties. You cannot decide the fate of property that belongs to another! What happened during the war was not right, just as it is not right for these organizations to interfere and impede on a mans personal affairs. It doesnt matter if he is compensated for the property or not. The point is its his property! low- if he goes to court? Why should he have to go to court over HIS property? And spend the next several years of his life in litigation. We have all seen how long criminal court cases drag on. Do you have any idea how long it takes for a civil case? You go on and on in your posts on other subjects regarding property and theft. How is this different?

    • Jeremiah Joseph April 21, 2015 at 4:08 pm #

      “You cannot decide the fate of property that belongs to another!” (you said that)
      Here we go…
      What is a artifact?..
      I speak broadly about stuff that I feel is something I need to say, but enough of the broad statements, lets get to specifics;
      What is a Artifact? I don’t know, but I copied and pasted your comment that I can relate to, so please, bare with me…
      I agree, we shouldn’t decide the fate of someone other then ourselves, but when we live in a society that consumes finite resources at a unprecedented level’s, it seems we are deciding the fate for those after us, right? and it doesn’t sit with me well, to think what we are really kicking down the road.
      Also I understand going out and arrowhead hunting or what not has been a family outing event since the land was DECEPTIVELY taken from the Indigenous…
      So for me, I am torn on how to react to my friends that show me these extremely fascinating ARTIFACTS they find! Because YES I grew up in this #ConsumerCulture, its been a social norm. But in my heart I know something ain’t right here, I’m talking specifically about Indigenous ARTIFACTS. Indigenous cultures (here) had the values that would compliment the natural order of laws (ecology), values that would have generation after generation in mind.. it doesn’t seem that way today, I mean I know it isn’t!
      So what is it that we are in disagreement about? yes I understand my interpretation of “property”, but what exactly are we talking about..? going out and having the finders keepers type attitude? or?

      Come on man, family heirlooms is something that is priceless, just like the Artifacts that have been found here, they are priceless and give the proof of our existences for tens of thousands of years, injustice slaps us in the face all the time… I see it on a daily when it comes to water, land and opportunity..

      It seems we agree on some things, I believe in individual liberty also, through a representative government! UNFORTUNATELY we don’t have either right now..

      Hopefully we understand each-other a lil better now.. Cheers

  14. REALLY? April 21, 2015 at 8:36 am #

    To say “its more than what Japanese Americans got during WWII” is a complete contradiction entirely!! Yes what happened to these people was an injustice. There is nothing nice about war. On the other hand, two wrongs do not make a right. You can not justify depriving Mr. Eaton of his human rights due to the injustices done in the past. It does not make sense.

  15. bewildered April 21, 2015 at 9:05 am #

    Hmmm… Where did the assumption come from? Eatons own writings? Are there other writings or evidence to prove the previous owners were specific and gave the items to Eaton under certain terms and conditions? I think more information and facts are needed before anyone places judgement upon Eaton. Shame on you Low-Inyo!

    • Low-Inyo April 21, 2015 at 12:15 pm #

      bewildered : says it right in the story,dude….second paragraph….or do you think the guy that gave Eaton the articles suddenly decided to lie about what they must have agreed on ?…why would he do that ?….wouldn’t make sense.

  16. reality check April 21, 2015 at 12:05 pm #

    the former incarceries trusted Mr.Eaton with the arts and crafts, maybe you should too. Mr.Eaton did not make his descision in haste, but did so after years of continplating. There may very well be a reason he did not accept the offer. He kept his word to inform and educate the public by writing a book. Not all these organizations are on the up and up, some are involved in black market sales and other fraud. to have respect for those before us, we need to respect the choice that was made by the people who gave the items to Eaton.

  17. uninformed April 21, 2015 at 2:39 pm #

    This article raised interest and caused me to do more research. Mr.Eaton passed several years ago. He lived a very impressive life. I urge people to take a closer look and research for yourself.

  18. allen April 21, 2015 at 5:29 pm #

    do some research. Allen Eaton passed away several years ago. He was a very respectable man who dedicated much of his life to helping others and working to educate and inform the public and reform unconstitutional policies. He was not about consumer culture or personal profiting.

  19. Low-Inyo April 22, 2015 at 12:38 pm #

    allen…If that’s the case,then I’ll apologize to Mr. Eaton for what I said….But then,actually,it makes some of it even worse….those that might be argueing and bickering over his estate and going against his wishes after he has passed…I have a loose kinda will made up for a good friend to follow if I happen to suddenly pass on….This person gets this…this person gets that……He gets something for following my wishes and what I want done with my property.Hopefully, he follows my wishes on what I want done,and whoever I give my autographed baseballs and other things I have that happen to have monetary value and treasure now doesn’t go against my wishes .I’d hate to think what I might have told some now that they get this or that they will get them if I pass….and he doesn’t just turn around and just try to profit off the things in a garage sale or auction.


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