EWU Title » Nonfiction
The Burning Horse: The Japanese-American Experience in the Yakima Valley 1920-1942
For the tribes of the Yakima Indian Federation, the word "yakima" meant "beautiful land," but for the Japanese settlers in the early 'twenties, "yaki" meant "burning," and "uma" meant "horse." Their ideographs take on additional significance when considering the racist campaigns directed against them by the American Legion, the local, state, and congressional politicians, the newspapers of the Yakima Valley, and the Hearst papers in Seattle and California.
The media in the 'nineties are focusing attention on strained Japanese/American trade relations and on ceremonies, exhibits, and religious services to mark the end of the War in the Pacific. Dr. Heuterman details the Japanese-American experience in the two decades leading to the internment, after the outbreak of World War II, of western-region Issei and Nisei, the immigrants and first-generation Japanese Americans who came to farm the marginal lands of the Yakima Valley in eastern Washington after World War I.
Professor Heuterman, distinguished member of the faculty of the Edward R. Murrow School of Communications at Washington State University, uses the newspaper accounts in the Washington newspapers of the period to demonstrate a growing, systematic, institutional racism directed against the Japanese-American communities of Wapato and the surrounding area. Alongside the accounts of protests against the presence of Japanese tenant farmers on land the American Legion misguidedly thought should go to veterans, there are stories of Japanese-American contributions to the social and economic life of the region, as well as their efforts to share their rich cultural heritage with their neighbors.
Many readers will be indignant when this book reminds them of the fragility of the social fabric in a region whenever a segment of the population is accorded second-class status; others will be moved to tears by the fortitude of these Japanese-American families, who strove to adhere to the best principles of American democracy in the face of prejudice, harassment, violence, and, finally, dispossession and internment.
Thomas H. Heuterman
Thomas H. Heuterman grew up in Wapato in the Yakima Valley, the setting for this book. His father was the Methodist pastor for the area, and, as the author's dedication of the book to them attests, from his parents he derived an understanding of the value of many cultures, and a particular appreciation for their Nisei neighbors.
He was educated at the University of Washington and Washington State University, where for thirty years he has taught journalism, the history of journalism, and American studies, as a faculty member (and former Chair) of the prestigious Edward R. Murrow School of Communication.
His biography of Legh R. Freeman, Movable Type, was published by Iowa State University Press in 1979; his numerous contributions to books, symposia, periodicals, and conferences place him among the most important authorities on journalism history in the West. He is frequently consulted and cited on ethics and professionalism by newspaper publishers and academic colleagues.
Excerpts from The Burning Horse
Show your colors now, white or yellow. . . . The slogan of the day is THE JAP MUST GO. Make your choice. Are you White or are you yellow?
—Joseph C. Cheney, Wapato attorney (p. 26)
Wapato wins a pennant! Yes, sir, after all these years of patient waiting, the Nippons went out and won a pennant for Wapato in the Mt. Adams League. . . .
—Wapato Independent (p. 86)
. . . America is the melting pot of all nations and all our forefathers, yours and ours, came across the oceans. Then we should all have the same equal rights and we cannot see how you can claim any preference over us.
—Japanese American Citizens League (p. 98)
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