WHAT THEY ARE SAYING: Amache Survivors, Descendants, and Philanthropic and Environmental Leaders Applaud President Biden Signing the Amache National Historic Site Act
Last week, President Biden designated the Amache National Historic Site in the state of Colorado as part of the National Park System, signing H.R. 2497, the Amache National Historic Site Act, into law to preserve, protect, and interpret the incarceration of civilians of Japanese ancestry during World War II at the Amache site.
The President was joined by Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Chair Brenda Mallory, Senator John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-27), Congressman, Mark Takano (CA-41), National Park Service Director Charles F. “Chuck” Sams III, Deputy Assistant to the President and Asian American and Pacific Islander Senior Liaison Erika Moritsugu, and President and CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association Theresa Pierno.
A broad coalition of Amache survivors, Japanese American leaders and communities, state and local elected officials, Congressional leaders, environmental organizations, and others applauded the legislation.
See below for what they’re saying:
Bob Fuchigami, Amache survivor: “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. President Biden’s signature on the Amache National Historic Site Act today brings me hope that we are finally closer to this certainty. My parents did not live to see this day. The time is not only right; it is long overdue.”
Min Tonai, Amache survivor: “Many young men at Amache served in the U.S. Army, though their country incarcerated them for their Japanese ancestry. I was ten and incarcerated along with my mother and siblings at Amache, where I was also a boy scout. In 1943, our camp troop went to the Granada Railroad Station at four in the morning to see the young enlisted men off. Our scout commissioner told us to play as loud as we could. Years later, I served as a medic in the U.S. Army Korean War. In the 1980s, I worked to preserve Amache, organizing reunions and working on various preservation efforts. Thank you to President Biden for signing the Amache National Historic Act so that these efforts are not forgotten.”
Mike Honda, former Member of Congress and Amache survivor: “Congressmen Neguse and Buck and Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper demonstrated what cooperation looks like on the Hill. With the bill now signed by President Biden, this is finally the expression and realization of the people’s will.”
Rosalyn Tonai, Amache descendant and Executive Director, National Japanese American Historical Society, Inc.: “As the niece and granddaughter of former incarcerees at Amache, and as a practitioner in the field of historic and cultural preservation, this bill resonates on both a personal and professional level. I cannot help but be moved by the power of place that Amache holds for our families whose stories of sacrifice, perseverance and patriotism can now be told within the National Park Service system. At the same time, I am so encouraged that Amache holds a special place for veterans, families, and young people as intergenerational stewards who will help interpret its history, and the lessons learned from the past. President Biden’s signature on this bill means a stronger future for us all.”
Derek Okubo, Amache descendant and Executive Director, Agency for Human Rights and Community Partnerships, City and County of Denver: “Preserving and protecting the Amache site are essential factors toward the goal of telling a more complete and factual history of Colorado and our nation. In doing so, we will ensure that this stain on our nation’s constitution and past is never repeated. President Biden’s signature today means a better future for justice and equity in this country.
Kirsten Leong, Amache descendant: “Like many in the Japanese American community, my family did not talk about incarceration, and I didn’t even know Amache was part of my family’s history until after my grandparents passed and it was too late to ask. President Biden signing the Amache National Historic Site Act into law encourages thoughtful dialogue about the widespread intergenerational effects of incarceration that continue to shape the Japanese American experience to this day.”
Calvin Taro Hada, Amache descendant and President, The Japanese Association of Colorado (The Nikkeijin Kai of Colorado): “Today is a momentous day. I commend President Biden for signing the Amache National Historic Site Act into law and the strong Congressional champions who believed in the promise of this bill. I am proud that the many efforts, national and regional, made to preserve Amache created a legacy that will benefit all Americans. Amache is past, present, and future history, and a national park designation will ensure its story will never be forgotten.”
Ken Tsukada, Amache descendant: “With its designation as a National Historic Site, Amache will serve as a WWII memorial to honor the 120,000 individuals who served our country through incarceration and military service. My grandfather died there, my cousins were born there, and all left after “serving” the U.S. during a time of war. Amache reminds me of all those who sacrificed their lives with humble dignity and courage beyond anything I have ever had to endure. In designating Amache as a National Historic Site, America is acknowledging its mistakes and providing the descendants of the incarcerated the opportunity to fulfill many of the dreams that were stolen. We thank the collective effort of so many who have contributed to the National Historic Site designation culminating in President Biden’s signature.
Michael Takada, Chief Executive Officer, Japanese American Service Committee (JASC) and Amache descendant: “My father, David Takada, along with my grandparents, Kakuji and Fumi Takada, and my uncle, Andrew Takada, were all incarcerated in Amache. 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 President Biden and the bipartisan leadership in the U.S. House and Senate for honoring those incarcerated.”
Stakeholders and Philanthropic Leaders
Dr. Karen Korematsu, Founder and Executive Director, The Fred T. Korematsu Institute: “My father, Fred Korematsu, was an American civil rights hero who bravely resisted the Japanese American incarceration during World War II and dedicated his life to protecting the civil liberties of all people. His story resonates today as a critical example of the lifelong impacts of losing one’s fundamental rights and freedoms. Now, more than ever, the lessons of history need to be learned. I commend President Biden for seeing this through.”
Stacey Sagara Shigaya, Program Director, Sakura Foundation: “As the daughter of Japanese Americans who were forced into concentration camps during WWII, my family has been witness to racism, injustice, and generational trauma. The Amache National Historic Site is critical to accurately defining the past and honoring those who were interned by sharing their experiences. Understanding what the internees lived through will help us process the generational trauma that exists to this day. The stories of Amache, Governor Ralph Carr, and many Amache internees who still reside in Colorado are vital elements for the growth of our state, country, and generations to come.”
John Hopper, Amache Preservation Society and Granada School District: “The Amache Preservation Society has always wanted to do what was best for the Japanese American families that had to endure Amache. 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, the Amache National Historic Site Act needed to become law.”
Ann Burroughs, President and CEO, Japanese American National Museum and Chair of the Japanese American Confinement Sites Consortium: “We are proud to support the Amache National Historic Site Act, which reaffirms the National Park Service’s commitment to preserving and interpreting sites that convey difficult chapters in our nation’s history. The Japanese American story illustrates the rich cultural heritage of the nation spanning generations, while the incarceration of over 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry in violation of their civil liberties provides lessons today in learning from history and correcting our mistakes to prevent them from happening again. Because of President Biden’s actions today, we can now look forward to building upon a legacy of government and community partnerships to protect Japanese American confinement sites with the designation of the Amache National Historic Site.”
Janet Ito, President of Friends and Family of Nisei Veterans: “Only in America, we are able to correct the mistakes of the historical past by learning from it, standing together and making a commitment not to repeat it again. The tragic story of wholesale internment of 120,000 persons of Japanese descent, without Constitutionally guaranteed due process, solely based on ethnicity, must be told. No doubt, one effective way to keep this history alive and to teach humanity and morality is to preserve all internment sites to help educate and instill the correct spirit of “doing what’s right” so unique to this country. Friends and Family of Nisei Veterans, therefore, clearly and strongly supports the Amache National Historic Site Act to preserve the Amache site. It is timely and very much needed as America again suffers from ugly incidents of anti-Asian acts.”
Michelle Magalong, PhD, President, Asian and Pacific Islander Americans in Historic Preservation: “We commend President Biden, as well as Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper and Congressmen Neguse and Buck for their leadership on this critical and long-awaited initiative to establish the Amache National Historic Site as a unit of the National Park System. This bill is a capstone of many years of dedicated efforts by descendants of the Japanese Americans incarcerated at Amache during World War II, community groups, preservation partners, governmental agencies, and other stakeholders. In addition to extensive strategic planning and community engagement by the National Park Service with these stakeholders, in the past decade there have been numerous educational and preservation projects spearheaded by community groups, universities, and preservation partners funded by the NPS Japanese American Confinement Sites grants that demonstrate the importance of honoring and preserving this place for future generations.”
Scott Levin, Regional Director, Anti-Defamation League Mountain States Region: “We applaud President Biden for signing the Amache National Historic Site Act. Our generation and future generations have a moral responsibility to remember the shameful act of forcibly interning Japanese Americans and people of Japanese ancestry on American soil. The creation of a National Historic Site at Amache not only helps us remember, it provides an opportunity to confront our past to help dismantle the lingering xenophobia that allowed for internment and to nurture reconciliation and healing.”
Dawn DiPrince, Executive Director and State Historic Preservation Officer, History Colorado: “In the quest for healing and reconciliation, History Colorado strongly supports the Amache National Historic Site Act. Preserving and protecting the Amache site is essential to remembering and interrogating the racist incarceration of Japanese Americans. A national park designation can help ensure that the truth of this traumatic history is never forgotten so we can build a just world.”
Theresa Pierno, National Parks Conservation Association President and CEO: “It is an honor to join President Biden at the White House today to welcome Amache National Historic Site into our park system. Our national park sites include wide open wild spaces, as well as places that represent some of our country’s most important history. Not all stories they tell are easy to hear, like those of Amache, but perhaps those are the stories we as a nation need to hear most. 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. NPCA and so many others in Colorado and across the country came together with Japanese American incarceration survivors and descendants, community members, and elected officials to help make today’s victory a reality. I am proud to stand alongside many of these partners today and carry so many others with me. This is an important legacy we leave those who will come long after us.”
Tracy Coppola, Colorado Senior Program Manager, National Parks Conservation Association: “We are forever grateful to President Biden, Secretary Haaland, Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper, and Congressmen Neguse and Buck for leading and supporting this critical opportunity for America to respect, honor, and heal at Amache. We honor the Amache descendants, the Amache Preservation Society, the Town of Granada, the National Park Service, and the many storytellers, historians, civil rights and military veteran groups, offices of tourism, preservation offices, county commissioners and other local elected officials who we worked alongside in seeing this through. Most of all, 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 whose stories will now be revealed and remembered.”
Jane Daniels, Director of Preservation Programs, Colorado Preservation, Inc.: “Colorado Preservation, Inc. wholeheartedly supports the Amache National Historic Site Act and celebrates today’s signature by President Biden. Nationwide hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have highlighted the need for greater justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in the larger historic preservation movement for which the National Park Service plays a key and leading role. Preserving and protecting Amache as part of the National Parks presents a vital opportunity to tell a more complete story of Colorado and our nation.”
Mike Murray, Chair, Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks: “We applaud the efforts to designate the Amache National Historic Site as the newest unit of our National Park System. The incarceration of civilians of Japanese ancestry during World War II is a dark chapter in our nation’s history. But we strongly believe that Amache’s inclusion in our National Park System will help to provide the American public with more opportunities to better understand and appreciate this difficult part of our nation’s history.”
Bonnie J. Clark, Ph.D., Professor of Anthropology, Curator for Archaeology, University of Denver (DU) & Director, DU Amache Project: “Amache’s location on the High Plains connects the American Heartland to Asian American Pacific Islander history. Even more, Amache connects the citizens of this country, across race and ethnicity, through its legacy—a legacy of conflict and the efforts to forge ties despite it. I strongly support the Amache National Historic Site Act to establish Amache as a unit of the National Park System and thank President Biden and Congress for seeing this through.”
State and Local Elected Officials
Colorado Governor Jared Polis: “Colorado welcomes President Biden’s important action to establish the Amache site as a National Park unit, highlighting the injustices of the internment of Japanese Americans. Colorado is home to twelve world-class national park units, and adding the Amache site is an important step to preserve and protect our national history and cultural experiences, even when we are called to face dark times in our nation’s past.”
Granada Mayor Argie Thrall, Jr.: “The Town of Granada is honored that President Biden has signed the Amache National Historic Site Act to designate Amache to national park status. The preservation effort is important for the future of our town, our children, and our country. Most importantly, the national park status will honor the experiences of Amache’s survivors and generations of descendants to this day.”
Chuck Sams, Director, National Park Service (NPS): “It is our solemn responsibility as caretakers of America’s national treasures to tell the whole story of our nation’s heritage for the benefit of present and future generations. The National Park Service will continue working closely with key stakeholders dedicated to the preservation of Amache, and those directly impacted by the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, to preserve and interpret this significant historic site to the public.” [Statement, 3/18/22]
Colorado Senator Michael Bennett: “This moment is a testament to the Amache survivors, descendants, and advocates who never stopped pushing to get this done. Thanks to their work, future generations will now have the opportunity to learn about what happened at Amache and the Americans who were interned there. We have a responsibility to carry their legacy forward, and now Amache has the recognition and resources it deserves.” [Statement, 3/18/22]
Colorado Senator John Hickenlooper: “Designating Camp Amache as a National Historic Site will honor those who were imprisoned and educate future generations about this dark chapter. Our Colorado communities were the driving force behind this bill. [Statement, 3/18/22]
Colorado Congressman Joe Neguse: “I am thrilled that President Biden has signed the Amache National Historic Site Act. When we work together, when we listen and lead locally, we can accomplish a lot. This bill proves it. With the support of countless community advocates, and the powerful stories of survivors and descendants, we’ve been able to authorize the site’s designation in record time.” [Statement, 3/18/22]
Biden Administration Officials
Deb Haaland, Secretary of Department of the Interior (DOI): “As a nation, we must face the wrongs of our past in order to build a more just and equitable future. I applaud President Biden and the bipartisan action in Congress that has ensured this important and painful chapter in our nation’s story is preserved and honored for the generations to come. After visiting Amache and meeting with survivors and descendants, I was moved by their resilience and the way in which Colorado communities came together during and after the injustice to support Japanese Americans. May we all be inspired to do the same today for all our fellow citizens.” [Statement, 3/18/22]
Brenda Mallory, Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ): “Today @POTUS signed the Amache National Historic Site Act into law, designating the Amache site in Granada, Colorado as part of the National Park System. Preserving and protecting this site is a key step toward telling the fuller American story.” [Tweet, 3/18/22]