Sunday, September 27, 2009

A DAY TRIP TO HEART MOUNTAIN





My honey and I took a day trip yesterday to Cody, Wyoming. We intended on once again visiting the Wild Bill Cody museum but got too late of a start to do so. On the way, however, we were fortunate to be able to visit the Heart Mountain Relocation Center, which was actually an internment camp. This little-known site between Powell and Cody relates the fate of almost 11,000 Japanese people who were interned here at this particular camp for a three-year period during World War II...



We walked around the buildings in the photos above and below...



Because the US Government were at war with Japan and did not want any espionage or sabatoge by this people, they interred any and all Japanese living in certain parts of West coast states...

“Within two months of Pearl Harbor, political and military leaders prevailed upon President Roosevelt to sign Executive Order 9066, which gave the Army carte blanche to uproot citizens and aliens alike from their homes…”



Though I can see why our government took such actions (i.e. the post-911 fear of certain races of people in America), it must have been extremely sad and hard for these people to be plucked from their homes, upon short notice, and only allowed 100 pounds per person, or “what they could carry”. Homes, livestock, pets, furnishings, automobiles, and jobs were all abandoned. They were put on railcars and shipped on a four-day journey across the land. The blinds on the windows were closed so that no one could see out to where they were being relocated to...



There were 10 such relocation centers in the United States. At Heart Mountain alone, there were 550 babies born into captivity during the three-year period...



What impressed me the most was the absolute fortitude of these people. Though stuffed into small unfurnished and thin-walled barracks, they made the best of their situation. They raised schools, a hospital, a police and firestation, a court house, a sewage treatment plant, a swimming hole, and other ammenities found in any ordinary city...



They played organized sports...Sometimes playing against the local Cody boys...



Along with building a city, the Japanese people grew huge acreages of vegetable gardens to subsidize their food allotment...



They also had a hog and chicken farm...And, hand-dug irrigation systems are now still in use by local farmers.



Amazingly, some Japanese enlisted in the US military and went on to become friends with those they served in the government who imprisoned them...

As boys, these two men, one an American citizen, the other a Japanese American citizen, one free, the other interred, met as boyscouts and later served in the same government together. They have remained friends throughout their lives...



Here is an excerpt from their story...

A Letter from former U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta and former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson about the HMWF Interpretive Learning Center

Dear visitor to the HMWF website,

The two of us have been friends now for almost sixty-five years – our entire lives in politics, and then some. But we think the most special thing about our friendship is the unlikely place it began, behind the barbed-wire fence of the Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Park County, Wyoming.

Heart Mountain was one of the ten so-called “Relocation Centers” that the government set up during World War II to detain all of the people of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast after forcing them from their homes. It was a harsh place, where hundreds of families like the Mineta family struggled to get by, charged with no crime yet interned on baseless suspicions of disloyalty. And it was a place that families like the Simpson family of Cody, Wyoming, knew little about, even though it was quite nearby.

But each of the places – the town of Cody and the Heart Mountain camp – had a Boy Scout troop, and the two of us were both scouts. That’s how we met – as twelve-year-olds at a Jamboree beneath the guard towers at Heart Mountain. We knew even then that we had a lot more in common than our government seemed to think possible. And though we were a lot more interested in tying knots and playing pranks back then than we were in the Constitution and civil rights, we now understand how important Heart Mountain was in forming our shared conviction that an injustice like the Japanese American internment should never again happen in the United States of America......Our friendship, begun as Boy Scouts at Heart Mountain, has lasted for decades. We want to make sure that future generations of Boy and Girl Scouts – and all who prize human dignity and freedom – will have the opportunity to learn the lessons of the Heart Mountain Relocation Center through a visit to the Interpretive Learning Center. We hope you’ll consider joining the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation in this important effort...

Respectfully and Sincerely,


Norman Y. Mineta Alan K. Simpson


To read the entirety of their letter, view other photographs, and learn more about The Heart Mountain Relocation Center, please visit the website of The Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation

May we never forget...

2 comments:

Emily said...

Thank you for sharing this today. I actually had no idea about it or it's history. It is something I would like to go and see!

Zebu said...

Indeed :) It is still in the making but very interesting, nonetheless. Hope all is well with you.