MCA Denver was located in a renovated fish market in Sakura Square, before there was land donated for the museum on Delgany Street. Visiting the museum in Sakura Square was great because it was in a part of Denver that had a special meaning. What intrigued me was a bust of Governor Ralph Carr, who was honored by the Japanese-American community.
As someone who attended civics classes in another state, it was important to learn what this was about, including what Governor Carr did. He was opposed to interning American citizens, and not just the Japanese Americans. There were 10 camps in the country — Camp Amache is in Granada, Colorado – were titled “relocation centers,” which sounded much better.
President Roosevelt ordered all Japanese-Americans and Japanese to be sent to internment camps, after the bombing of the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, which led the United States into World War II. Somehow, this seems like something going on right now, with hatred and beatings of people of Asian descent.
Governor Carr lost his next election. However, as noted by Atlas Obscura (one of my favorite websites ever), part of the inscription at Sakura Square said this:
“Those who benefited from Governor Carr’s humanity have built this monument in grateful memory of his unflinching Americanism, and as a lasting reminder that the precious democratic ideals he espoused must forever be defended against prejudice and neglect.”
After numerous years, Camp Amache has been hailed as something to remember about what happened to the thousands of Japanese-Americans who were sent to the camps. But now, two members of Congress – Democrat Joe Neguse and Republican Ken Buck – are taking up the cause to propose that the camp be the state’s fifth national site.
In 2018, when this blog began, I wrote a post about The Cultural Landscape Foundation, which created a list of places that needed help. The foundation, founded by Charles Birnbaum, called it Landslide©, similar to what other preservation entities create lists to garner attention to save important places. (That includes Colorado Preservation, Inc., and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.) But TCLF created one of the most deep-dive information packages about the camps, including Amache. This is how the foundation began a sidebar in 2018:
“In 2006 Congress authorized $38 million to fund the Japanese American Confinement Sites grant program, signed into law by former President George W. Bush. The program is administered by the National Park Service with the goal of preserving and interpreting the history of the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans. For more than a decade, that program has provided some $21 million to date to support documentary and preservation efforts, including conducting oral histories with survivors, creating books, films, museum exhibitions, educational programs, and interpretive memorials, along with many other initiatives.
“But for the past two years, the latest presidential administration has submitted budget proposals that have sought to greatly diminish—or altogether cancel—funding for the program. Only through strenuous public-awareness campaigns have advocacy groups been able to restore the full levels of appropriations, with funds initially cut in half in the FY2018 budget request and altogether declined for FY2019.”
Get the drift, right?
So, The Denver Post, this week began the story about the two Congressmen:
“Camp Amache, where thousands of Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants were held against their will during World War II, would become a national historic site under bipartisan legislation introduced Wednesday by two Coloradans.
“Republican U.S. Rep. Ken Buck and Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse co-authored the bill. Buck represents the rural southeast Colorado area where the Amache incarceration site is, and Neguse chairs the U.S. House subcommittee that oversees national parks and public lands.”
(The photo at the top of this post was from The Denver Post a while ago.)
The title of the bill is: “To establish the Amache National Historic Site in the State of Colorado as a unit of the National Park System, and for other purposes.”
And The Colorado Sun began its story like this:
“The recently stalled push to bring the Amache incarceration camp into the National Park System got an energy boost Wednesday through a bipartisan bill to designate the square-mile on Colorado’s southeastern plains, where more than 7,000 Japanese Americans were held during World War II, a National Historic Site.
“The bill, sponsored by U.S. Reps. Joe Neguse and Ken Buck, would fast-track a plodding federal process that began in 2019 and then encountered COVID-related delays — particularly in the public-comment phase, which had to move to virtual testimony — that set it back at least a year.”
The pandemic has slowed down many things, but places like Amache need to be saved, just as the concentration camps in Europe and the slave cabins in the south. Remembering such places need to remind us what cannot happen again.
Many links, including The Colorado Sun, The Denver Post, 9News, and the TCLF and Colorado Preservation, Inc.: