Legislation Would Make Amache a National Historic Site

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Restored barrack, water tower, and guard tower at Amache, present day. More than 7,000 Japanese Americans were confined at Amache during World War II, making it the 10th-largest city in Colorado. (Photo by Mikaela Ruland)

WASHINGTON — Introduced by Reps. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) and Ken Buck (R-Colo.) and Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper (both D-Colo.), the bipartisan Amache National Historic Site Act (H.R. 2497/S.1284) would make the Granada Relocation Center, a World War II incarceration site in Colorado known as Amache, a national park.

“The National Park Service (NPS) is our nation’s official protector of cultural and historic resources and is our nation’s largest classroom, where we can learn about our past through the power of place,” the co-sponsors said in a statement. “What NPS chooses to preserve and the stories it chooses to tell — including the complex and difficult — reflects our values as a nation.

Reps. Ken Buck and Joe Neguse

“With H.R. 2497/S.1284, we have an opportunity to protect a story has largely been forgotten: the unconstitutional imprisonment of 7,567 Japanese Americans at Amache. Two-thirds of the people at Amache were American citizens. Most were given just days to dispose of everything they owned, with no idea where they were going or what would happen.

“Only one thing was clear: They were not welcome in their own country because they had Japanese faces and names.

“Even amid this tragedy, the people imprisoned at Amache created an entire town, and interacted regularly with the nearby town of Granada. Many even volunteered to serve in the military during the war — the highest percentage of all the incarceration camps.

“At Amache, people lived in trauma, with a constant presence of armed guards, barbed wire and shoddily built barracks. For many, a sense of family unity was destroyed. Several of the older generation who suffered at Amache died before the U.S. government issued reparations and never received an apology.

“This bill honors the heroic survivors and descendants within the Amache community as well as the legacy of those who are no longer with us. While the story of Amache is theirs, it is also the story of the Town of Granada, and links to our tribal history. It is part of the cultural heritage throughout canyons and plains of southeast Colorado. It is part of our collective history.

“Amache is also a story that sadly remains relevant to the trauma inflicted on Asian American Pacific Islanders to this day.”

The site is currently maintained by the Amache Preservation Society and became a National Historic Landmark in 2006. John Hopper, principal of Granada High School, established the society and students at his school volunteer at Amache, giving tours, writing funding grants, and maintaining the cemetery for those who died in the camp.

If Amache becomes a historic site, the National Park Service would take over management, giving it and the area a possible economic and tourism boost. It would also grant the U.S. secretary of the interior the authority to acquire the land, currently owned by the Town of Granada, by donation or purchase.

Statements of Support

“I hope that Congress will pass the Amache legislation to build on Congress’ bipartisan leadership to acknowledge that what happened to Japanese Americans was wrong and to help us live as one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” — Mike Honda, former member of Congress from California and Amache survivor

“Like many in the Japanese American community, no one in my family talked about this experience, and I didn’t even know it was part of my family’s history until after my grandparents passed and it was too late to ask. Passing the Amache National Historic Site Act will encourage thoughtful dialogue about the widespread intergenerational effects of incarceration that continue to shape the Japanese American experience to this day.” — Kirsten Leong, Amache descendant

“For the sake of our country and the future of our children, I urge Congress to pass the Amache National Historic Site Act.” — John Hopper, Amache Preservation Society and Granada School District

“By acknowledging this part of our past, we can continue the process of healing and reconciliation. The passage of the Amache National Historic Site Act will help to ensure that the history of Amache in Colorado is not forgotten.” — Dr. Dylan Mori, Mile High Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) president

“This legislation will preserve and memorialize a site that has the power to shed light upon a mistake we must remember, recall the service and sacrifice of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and celebrate the constitutional vision of Colorado Gov. Ralph Carr. All these things are worthy of doing and doing so will make us better American citizens.” — Calvin Taro Hada, president, Nikkeijin Kai of Colorado

“Friends and Family of Nisei Veterans strongly supports the Amache National Historic Site Act. It is timely and very much needed as America again suffers from ugly incidents of anti-Asian acts.” — Janet Ito, president of Friends and Family of Nisei Veterans

Memorial at Amache reads, “Dedicated to the 31 patriotic Japanese Americans who volunteered from Amache and dutifully gave their lives in World War II, to the approximately 7,000 persons who were relocated at Amache and to the 120 who died during this period of relocation.”

“Amache connects the citizens of this country, across race and ethnicity, through its legacy — a legacy of conflict and the efforts to forge ties despite it. I strongly support passage of the Amache National Historic Site Act.” — Bonnie J. Clark, Ph.D., professor of anthropology, curator for archaeology, University of Denver (DU) and director, DU Amache Project

“The Japanese American Confinement Sites Consortium is proud to support the Amache National Historic Site Act, which reaffirms the National Park Service’s commitment to preserving and interpreting sites that convey difficult chapters in our nation’s history. We look forward to building upon a legacy of government and community partnerships in protecting Japanese American confinement sites with the designation of Amache National Historic Site.” — Ann Burroughs, chair of Japanese American Confinement Sites Consortium

“We strongly support the Amache National Historic Site Act and believe the site’s inclusion in our National Park System will help to provide the American public with more opportunities to better understand and appreciate one of the most difficult chapters in our nation’s diverse history.” — Phil Francis, chair, Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks

“In the spirit of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion that we embrace, History Colorado strongly supports the Amache National Historic Site Act. Preserving and protecting the Amache site is a key opportunity to interpret and interrogate our past and tell a more complete story of Colorado and our nation.” — Steve W. Turner, executive director, History Colorado and state historic preservation officer

“As America’s storyteller, what the National Park Service chooses to preserve and the stories it chooses to tell reflects our values as a nation. The Amache National Historic Site Act brings the hope of preserving and protecting this story. Amid today’s, and yesterday’s, scourge of anti-Asian Pacific Islander hate crimes, we need this more than ever. I call on Congress to pass the Amache National Historic Site Act.” — Tracy Coppola, Colorado program manager, National Parks Conservation Association

“Along with the nearby Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, the site of Amache reminds us that the American experience has been and remains a work in progress. Passage of the Amache National Historic Site Act will be a compelling statement that the nation remains committed to coming to terms with its often-contradictory history.” — Tom Thomas, Ph.D., Sand Creek Massacre Foundation Board of Directors

“Preserving Colorado’s Amache incarceration site is an important step towards acknowledging the grave injustice perpetrated towards thousands of people, primarily Japanese Americans, during the World War II era. We must always remind people of what happened at Amache in order to protect everyone’s freedom in the future.” — Adrian Miller, executive director, Colorado Council of Churches

“Our generation and future generations have a moral responsibility to remember the shameful act of forcibly interning Japanese Americans and people of Japanese ancestry on American soil. The creation of a National Historic Site at Amache not only helps us remember, it provides an opportunity to confront our past to help dismantle the lingering xenophobia that allowed for internment and to nurture reconciliation and healing.” — Scott Levin, regional director, Anti-Defamation League Mountain States Region

“As the daughter of Japanese Americans who were forced into concentration camps during WWII, my family has been witness to racism, injustice, and generational trauma. The Amache National Historic Site Act is critical to accurately defining the past and honoring those who were interned by sharing their experiences. The stories of Amache, Gov. Ralph Carr, and many Amache internees who still reside in Colorado are important elements for the growth of our state, country, and generations to come.” — Stacey Shigaya, program director, Sakura Foundation

“We strongly support the Amache National Historic Site Act and believe the site’s inclusion in our National Park System will help to provide the American public with more opportunities to better understand and appreciate one of the most difficult chapters in our nation’s diverse history.” — Phil Francis, chair, Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks

“With this opportunity, surviving communities can reclaim and transform a space with a horrendous history into one of education, healing, and sharing. We urge Congress to act now to preserve this vital piece of AAPI history. We thank Congressman Neguse for championing our history and stories, and urge Congress to grant Amache a much-deserved National Historic Site status.” — Outdoor Asian Colorado Chapter

“My father, Fred Korematsu, was an American civil rights hero who bravely resisted the Japanese American incarceration during World War II and dedicated his life to protecting the civil liberties of all people. His story resonates today as a critical example of the lifelong impacts of losing one’s fundamental rights and freedoms. Now, more than ever, the lessons of history need to be learned. I urge Congress to pass the Amache National Historic Site Act.” — Karen Korematsu, founder and executive director, Fred T. Korematsu Institute

“Canyons & Plains supports the Amache National Historic Site Act. We believe the addition of Amache as a unit of the National Park System will be of great benefit to our region. In a struggling area, even pre-pandemic, having another attraction for visitors will only add to the potential for economic development and tourist dollars to help our local economies. But even more important than that, such a designation will ensure that a vital tale is told so that we may not forget both the transgressions and the will to overcome that define the story of America.” — Rick Wallner, president, Board of Directors, Canyons & Plains of Southeast Colorado Regional Heritage Taskforce

“Amache becoming a national park will preserve this historic location for years to come and would enhance tourist development efforts in Southeast Colorado where economic development is needed. Your support in designating Amache as a National Park through the Amache National Historic Site Act is greatly appreciated.” — Baca County Commissioners Glen R. Ausmus, Shiloh Freed and Rick Butler

“We commend Congressman Neguse and Congressman Buck’s leadership in introducing this bill to establish the Amache National Historic Site as a unit of the National Park System. This bill is a capstone of many years of dedicated efforts by descendants of the Japanese Americans incarcerated at Amache during World War II, community groups, preservation partners, governmental agencies, and other stakeholders.” — Dr. Michelle Magalong, president of Asian and Pacific Islander Americans in Historic Preservation

“Protecting Amache is needed more than ever as the American government has once again engaged in unconstitutional imprisonment and carried out prejudicial policies and practices based on race and national origin. I urge Congress to pass the Amache National Historic Site Act. Making Amache a national park site will be one of the best investments the country can make in its future.” — Dr William Wei, professor of history, University of Colorado Boulder and member, Re-envisioning Denver’s Historic Chinatown Project

“The Town of Granada is pleased to support the Amache National Historic Site Act to designate and promote the Amache internment camp to a national park. The preservation effort has been vital in honoring its survivors and descendants. The benefits of a national park site designation would have major effects at our local and county level, bringing more tourism to the area which can have a large economic benefit to rural America and increase access to funding for the restoration of the site.” — Argie Thrall, Jr., mayor and Board of Trustees for Town of Granada

“The benefits that a national historic site designation would have to broadening the efforts started by the Amache Preservation Society would be tremendous in that it would bring greater attention to the site, enabling increased access for funding for the restoration of the site and ultimately promote more tourism to the area which can have enhanced economic benefit to rural America. We are pleased to support H.R.2497/S.1284 to establish the Amache National Historic Site in the State of Colorado as a unit of the National Park System.” — Board of County Commissioners for Prowers County, Colorado

“We are grateful that this bill is being considered and we strongly support its passage. Amache deserves to be recognized as a National Historic Site and we hope that it will guarantee that its history, importance, and symbol-ism will be shared for generations to come. As much as we conveniently ignore this fact, much work is needed to reach our shared aspiration for justice and equity for all. This is a great opportunity to take a giant leap toward honoring those that suffered, comforting those that still struggle, and educating future generations of the harsh and lasting impacts of wrongful action.” — Robin Lawrentz, president, Japan America Society of Southern Colorado

“Preserving and protecting the Amache site is a key opportunity toward the critical goal of enhancing the goal to interpret and investigate our past by telling a more complete story of Colorado and our nation. In doing so, we will ensure that this stain on our nation’s history is never repeated. I call on Congress to pass the Amache National Historic Site Act.” — Derek Okubo, Amache descendant

“I urge Congress to pass the Amache National Historic Site Act. The time is not only right; it is long overdue.” — Bob Fuchigami, Amache survivor

“My great-grandparents were from samurai families, college educated, and started churches for the American Baptist in Japan and the U.S. Grandfather was a dentist with movie stars as patients. My family was educated, devoted to their Christian church leaders, and full of professionals serving their community. But none of that mattered — three generations of my family were detained behind barbed wire at Amache because they had Japanese faces and names. Amache is a story we cannot forget—with the Amache National Historic Site Act we have a chance to preserve, honor, and protect it—because it is very much a story that is alive today.” — Mitch Homma, Amache descendant

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