Reps. Joe Neguse (D) and Ken Buck (R) introduced the legislation to designate the site, where thousands of Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants were interned by the U.S. during World War II, as a National Historic Site. The site was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2006.
The camp was known during the war as the Granada War Relocation Center and housed around 7,000 people, while about 10,000 passed through the camp – most of whom were of Japanese descent and also were American citizens.
It was one of 10 camps across the country where more than 120,000 people, mostly of Japanese descent, were incarcerated during the war following an executive order from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
“I am proud to introduce the Amache National Historic Site Act with Rep. Neguse because it is so important that we remember the injustices committed against Japanese Americans,” said Buck, who represents the district that includes the site. “The nation is better today because of the lessons we have learned from our past. Preserving Amache serves as one of those hard lessons for the people of Eastern Colorado and the rest of our nation.”
Neguse, who is the chair of the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, said he would bring the bill up at an April 21 committee hearing.
“Designation of the Amache site in southeast Colorado as a National Park, will provide education for future generations on this dark time in our nation’s history, as well as healing and honor to those that lived it,” Neguse said in a statement. “It is our hope that preservation of this site will provide reconciliation for our communities and for the nation.”
The bill, called the Amache National Historic Act, comes on the heels of a measure introduced by Buck, Sen. Michael Bennet (D) and former Sen. Cory Gardner (R) that was included in a conservation package signed by President Trump in 2019 which directed the Interior Department to study Amache’s historical significance as part of the push for a NPS designation. The Associated Press reported in February that the pandemic has stalled some efforts to examine the site.
Dr. Bonnie Clark, with the Amache Research Project at the University of Denver, which has been studying the site in a long-term project, explained that the site is important to survivors and their families, as well as people who visit.
“Anybody who goes down there, it is a kind of haunted landscape. And it talks about both the ways that people take care of each other and the way they single themselves out. It’s a very complicated American story.”
Clark explained how visitors can still seems remnants from where foundations and outlines of buildings were located based on trees still growing at the site, along with other hints.
“There are other buildings we can say, as an archaeologist, we can see little hints of where the baseball fields were and where the sumo pen was.”
The measure has the support of the Japanese Association of Colorado, the Amache Preservation Society and some Amache descendants, according to the two congressmen.
“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,” said Derek Okubo, an Amache descendant, in a provided statement. “In doing so, we will ensure that this stain on our nation’s history is never repeated.”
Buck’s office provided a statement from former Congressman Mike Honda, who was interned at Amache as a young child with his family, which said he supported the measure as well.
The site is currently maintained by the Amache Preservation Society and other organizations.
“The Amache Preservation Society has always wanted to do what was best for the Japanese American families that had to endure Amache,” said the Preservation Society’s John Hopper. “It is for this reason that we feel that it needs to become a part of the National Park System. For the sake of our country and the future of our children, I urge Congress to pass the Amache National Historic Site Act.”
Calvin Taro Hada, the president of the Japanese Association of Colorado, said the organization strongly supported the measure as well.
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 Governor Ralph Carr. All these things are worthy of doing and doing so will make us better American Citizens,” he said.