Pilgrimage to Heart Mountain

Heart Mountain
Heart Mountain

Pilgrimage to Heart Mountain

After 74 years I made a personal pilgrimage to the site of the Heart Mountain War Relocation Center in Wyoming. The reason: My father had worked there as an architect and supervisor in the summer of 1942, constructing a makeshift prison for the thousands of Japanese Americans who would soon be forced to inhabit it.
After 74 years I made a personal pilgrimage to the site of the Heart Mountain War Relocation Center in Wyoming. The reason: My father had worked there as an architect and supervisor in the summer of 1942, constructing a makeshift prison for the thousands of Japanese Americans who would soon be forced to inhabit it.

For that period Dad had moved my mother, brother, and me to Wyoming. Unaware of the reason for this particular summer vacation, I experienced one of the happiest times of my childhood, living on a working ranch, playing with my brother, fishing, hiking, and riding a gentle old horse.

Alice and Lauren on Old Pete helping with the haying

Many years later I thought about paying a visit to the site, but for a long time there was nothing there. Then one day, checking the Internet, I found the existence of an interpretive center with all kinds of programs sponsored by the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation. Out of curiosity, and perhaps for reasons of atonement, I decided to take part in the Center’s annual Pilgrimage in July of 2016.

As the date approached I became anxious. How would I be received by the people who had been imprisoned in the camp my father had helped to build? Despite my worries, they all greeted me warmly. They invited me to take part in a small group, “inter-generational” process where Nisei incarcerees and their Sansei children shared their experiences with each other and with outsiders like me. Some of the men wept as they told their stories, and all of us were moved.

The Center’s comprehensive exhibits and the desolate landscape has allowed me to paint a vivid picture of the history to accompany these people’s stories. By the time I left I had made some new friends.

Original Article - "To Heart Mountain"

The original article "To Heart Mountain" and extra resources can be found here.
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