Visitors view the new barrack during the annual Heart Mountain Pilgrimage in 2015. (Photo by Stan Honda)
Between 1942 and 1945, nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans were unjustly incarcerated by the U.S. government. Over 14,000 were confined behind barbed wire that enclosed a remote stretch of land in Wyoming euphemistically called the “Heart Mountain War Relocation Center.”
The majority of those confined there were forcibly removed from California, with the rest coming from Washington and Oregon. After being uprooted from their homes, they found themselves deposited on a desolate plot of land beneath an imposing peak called Heart Mountain.
Over the past 20 years, the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation (HMWF) has worked to preserve the site of this American concentration camp and to tell the stories of those who were confined there. In recognition of this landmark anniversary, the foundation will be holding a town hall, along with Densho, on Saturday, Nov. 5, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the George and Sakaye Aratani Central Hall of the Japanese American National Museum, located at 100 N. Central Ave. in Little Tokyo.
Attendees will have the opportunity to learn more about the HMWF and its past successes, current initiatives, and ambitious plans for the future. Over the years, the foundation has acquired land formerly within the boundaries of the “War Relocation Center”; achieved designation as a National Historic Landmark Site; and built a world-class museum to preserve, protect, and widely disseminate this important story of a place and the people who endured a great wrong there.
Densho Executive Director Tom Ikeda will also discuss how to keep the World War II Japanese American incarceration story alive in a digital world. This Seattle-based nonprofit organization focuses on using digital technology to preserve the memories and reflections of Japanese Americans for use as primary sources on this period in history. Densho presents them and related resources to explore issues of democracy, wartime hysteria, civil rights and the responsibilities of citizenship in our increasingly global society.
“Our leadership is thrilled to partner with Densho to provide an update on important and current issues impacting our community,” said HMWF Chair Shirley Ann Higuchi. “With successful partnerships like these, as well as our collaboration with other key Japanese American stakeholder institutions in the All Camps Consortium, we are working together to ensure this story is passed down to future generations.”
Heart Mountain and Densho have partnered on a number of significant projects in the past, including an effort to digitize Heart Mountain photos and a more recent effort to galvanize a consortium to bring together national stakeholders and confinement site representatives invested in the history and current relevance around the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans and their families.
“Densho is proud to join the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation in this town hall. Given the success of the All Camps Consortium meetings, I hope that sharing our stories and initiatives together again in the same forum will further the public’s engagement with this rich history in an increasingly digital world,” said Ikeda.
There is no charge to attend. An RSVP is requested to Helen Yoshida at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Heart Mountain Interpretive Center is located between Cody and Powell, Wyo., on Highway 14A. It is open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the summer and Wednesday through Saturday in winter. Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for seniors and students, free for members and children under 12. For more information, call (307) 754-8000 or visit www.HeartMountain.org.