Manzanar National Historic Site, located in California's Owens Valley, was established to preserve the stories of the internment of nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II and to serve as a reminder to this and future generations of the fragility of American civil liberties.
Relocations recur throughout the history of Manzanar and the Owens Valley. The Paiute and early settlers as well as Japanese Americans all were uprooted from their homes.
Although the museum collections focus on the Manzanar War Relocation Center era, the park also preserves and interprets the history of the people who came before. Archeological collections and other items document and celebrate all eras of park history:
• American Indians began using the valley almost 10,000 years ago. About 1,500 years ago the Owens Valley Paiute established settlements here. They hunted, fished, collected pine nuts, and practiced a form of irrigated agriculture.
• Miners and ranchers moved into Owens Valley in the 1860s, destroying the natural resources the Paiute depended on, and disrupting their economy. Conflicts between the Paiute and the new arrivals were settled by the U.S. military, which forcibly relocated nearly 1,000 Owens Valley Paiute to Fort Tejon in 1863. Many Paiute later returned to Owens Valley to work on local ranches.
• The town of Manzanar—the Spanish word for “apple orchard”—was developed as an agricultural settlement beginning in 1910. Farmers grew apples, pears, peaches, potatoes, and alfalfa on several thousand acres surrounding the town.
• The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power began acquiring water rights in the valley in 1905 and completed the Los Angeles Aqueduct in 1913. Land buyouts continued in the 1920s, and by 1929 Los Angeles owned all of Manzanar’s land and water rights. Within five years, the town was abandoned.