Unanimous Senate and House passage puts preservation campaign waged by survivors, descendants and advocates near completion
Washington, D.C. – A former World War II Japanese American incarceration site in Colorado known as Amache is on the verge of becoming a national park site following this week’s unanimous Senate and House passage of the bipartisan Amache National Historic Site Act (H.R. 2497).
Once signed into law by the President, the former incarceration site in southeast Colorado will fall under the protection of the National Park Service. Survivors and descendants of Amache will have their story honored, interpreted, and preserved for generations to come.
The bipartisan legislation by Representatives Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) and Ken Buck (R-Colo.) overwhelmingly passed the House by 416-2 in July 2021. In the Senate, with leadership from Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and John Hickenlooper, (D-Colo.), the bill passed unanimously, and slightly amended, through the Senate energy committee in the fall of 2021.
The bill passed the Senate via unanimous consent on Monday February 14, and, completed it’s passage through Congress by re-passing the House of Repesentatives via unanimous consent on Friday February 18.
“This continued growth of our national park system is crucial for it to preserve locations and stories in American history, including those that are not easy to hear but essential to tell,” said Theresa Pierno, president and chief executive at the National Parks Conservation Association. “The unconstitutional imprisonment of Japanese Americans is an undeniably tragic story. But by preserving Amache, we can ensure that as a country we confront our mistakes, honor the stories of those who were unjustly imprisoned, and protect the site for future generations.”
“Through bipartisan action and listening to the enduring voice of the Amache community and all of us who have called for its history to be preserved, we will soon see the Amache National Historic Site in our park system,” said Tracy Coppola, Colorado senior program manager at NPCA. “We commend Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper and Congressmen Neguse and Buck for their leadership in providing a critical opportunity for our country to respect, honor, and heal at Amache. We are looking forward to working with the Biden administration to sign this bill into law and finally establish Amache as a national park site.
“We are forever grateful to the Amache Preservation Society, the Town of Granada, the National Park Service, Governor Polis, Amache descendants, and the storytellers, historians, civil rights and military veteran groups, offices of tourism, preservation offices, county commissioners and other local elected for seeing this through. Amid the tremendous local and national support, this moment stands on the shoulders of giants–the Amache survivors, who, with incredible generosity and strength have waited for this day for so long, and who now will never be forgotten,” Coppola added.
“I have waited many, many years to see the day where we can be certain that Amache, as a place of reflection, remembrance, honor, and healing, is protected for our current and future generations,“ said Bob Fuchigami, an Amache survivor. "Passage of the Amache National Historic Site Act in the Senate brings me hope that we are finally closer to this certainty, and I thank Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper for their leadership. My parents did not live to see this day. The time is not only right; it is long overdue.”
“My father, David Takada, along with my grandparents, Kakuji and Fumi Takada, and my uncle, Andrew Takada, were all incarcerated in Amache,” said Michael Takada, Amache descendant and chief executive officer of the Japanese American Service Committee. They lived for decades with a sense of shame and deep emotional pain and trauma. My grandparents have passed away but my dad and uncle, 97 and 95, respectively, are fortunately alive and in relatively good health. But we have a narrow window to help heal these wounds and provide a sense of closure for them and the few remaining Amache survivors. With each day, we are losing survivors and descendants. Thanks to bipartisan leadership in the U.S. House and Senate, the Amache bill is very close to the legislative finish line.”
Nearly 80 years ago, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, putting in motion one of the most shameful events in U.S. history that forced over 120,000 Japanese Americans – mostly U.S. citizens – from their homes. The men, women and children were sent without trial into incarceration sites and detention centers located primarily in the West and Southwest.
Japanese American incarceration was a part of the United States’ unconstitutional treatment of people of Japanese descent during WWII and a symbol of anti-Asian sentiment before, during, and after the war.
The Amache incarceration site was only half-built when the first prisoners arrived in 1942, forcing many to construct the very housing units in which they were imprisoned. Taken from Colorado farmers by eminent domain, the site covered 10,000 acres on the high, desolate plains of Colorado close to the town of Granada. Surrounding the site was barbed wire and guarded watchtowers.
The government finally closed Amache on October 15, 1945, after over 7,500 Japanese Americans had been taken from their homes and incarcerated there.
Amache has the distinction of having the highest rate of military volunteerism per capita than any of the other incarceration sites and its prolific silkscreen shop created more than 10,000 war posters, a likely reflection of ongoing efforts of Japanese prisoners to actively prove their patriotism. Thirty-one Amache men were killed in the war, including one Medal of Honor recipient.
Survivors and descendants of Amache have worked for decades to honor and preserve the land at risk of being forgotten, with assistance from the Amache Preservation Society, civil rights groups, veterans’ groups, academics, public lands advocates, the Town of Granada and other local and state elected officials.
The Day of Remembrance, a day of observance for the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, is on February 19.
Once signed, the Amache incarceration site will be protected as an official site of the National Park System, with other Japanese American incarcerations sites such as Manzanar, Tule Lake, Minidoka, and Honouliuli.
About the National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than 1.6 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.
About NPCA’s Future Parks: The Amache National Historic Site is a part of NPCA’s Future Parks initiatives that expands cultural and heritage sites and landmarks across the United States. We amplify community voices and work with the National Park Service to tell a more complete American story: past, present and future. Visit NPCA’s Future Parks to learn more.
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