by Sara Wilson, Colorado Newsline
March 18, 2022
President Joe Biden signed the Amache National Historic Site Act into law Friday, officially putting the former Japanese American internment camp known as Camp Amache under the National Park Service umbrella.
“It’s good to have a National Historic Site that is not just about our natural beauty or our great heritage, but really does commemorate a dark stain on our history and allows us to make sure we never forget it,” Sen. John Hickenlooper, who attended the signing in the Oval Office, told Colorado Newsline.
“This reflects 120,000 American citizens that we held captive at 10 of these camps all across the West. It’s not something to be proud of. It’s something to never forget so it never happens again,” he said.
Hickenlooper, a Democrat, hopes that with the Park Service designation, road-tripping families and other tourists will be motivated to stop at the site just outside Granada to learn the history.
The new law will bring additional resources to preserve the site where approximately 10,000 incarcerated people passed through between 1942 and 1945, when the country detained Japanese Americans during World War II. The camp and accompanying museum have been maintained so far by a volunteer student group led by John Hopper, the local high school principal.
The bill first passed in the U.S. House of Representatives in July 2021 and then passed in the Senate in February. It was pushed by Hickenlooper and Sen. Michael Bennet in the upper chamber and by Reps. Joe Neguse and Ken Buck, the Republican who represents the district where Amache is located, in the House.
The signing was also attended by Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory, NPS Director Charles Sams III, Asian American and Pacific Islander Senior Liaison Erika Moritsugu and President and CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association Theresa Pierno.
“This moment is a testament to the Amache survivors, descendants, and advocates who never stopped pushing to get this done,” Bennet said in a statement following the signing. “Thanks to their work, future generations will now have the opportunity to learn about what happened at Amache and the Americans who were interned there. We have a responsibility to carry their legacy forward, and now Amache has the recognition and resources it deserves.”
Amache joins two other war relocation centers in the Park Service system: Manzanar in central California and Minidoka in Idaho.
“When we work together, when we listen and lead locally, we can accomplish a lot,” Neguse said in a statement. “This bill proves it. With the support of countless community advocates, and the powerful stories of survivors and descendants, we’ve been able to authorize the site’s designation in record time.”
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