Reckoning with the Past: Amache Internment Site Granted National Park Designation
Then called the Granada Relocation Center, the site held more than 10,000 Japanese Americans between 1942 and 1945.
The United States government took a significant step Friday toward acknowledging an ugly part of the nation’s past when it granted the Amache internment camp site in Granada, Colorado, National Park Service designation.
Authorized by President Joe Biden as part of the Amache National Historic Site Act, the decision shines a light on a location that, in the aftermath of the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, served as one of 10 sites where the War Relocation Authority incarcerated Japanese American families.
The forced removal of Japanese Americans from their homes on the West Coast, part of Executive Order 9066 issued 80 years ago by then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt, mandated both first generation—Issei—and second generation—Nisei, or, U.S. citizens by birthright—individuals of Japanese ancestry be placed into internment camps.
Then known as the Granada Relocation Center, the Amache site, which was designated a national historic landmark in 2006, held more than 10,000 Japanese Americans between 1942 and the war’s end in 1945. At its peak, the camp incarcerated over 7,300 people, the majority of whom were American citizens.
“As a nation, we must face the wrongs of our past in order to build a more just and equitable future,” Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said in a release. “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.”
Thousands of Japanese Americans relocated to such camps went on to enlist to fight in the European theater in World War II. Today, the all-Nisei 442nd Regimental Combat Team is recognized as one of the most decorated units in American history. Among their ranks was Medal of Honor recipient Daniel Inouye, who, from 1963 until his death in 2012, represented the state of Hawaii as a U.S. senator.
“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,” National Park Service Director Chuck Sams said in a release. “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.”
While the structures that housed internees were demolished when the camp closed, many of the buildings’ foundations remain as reminders. Also onsite is a monument and historic cemetery, as well as a collection of reconstructed buildings replicating those used when the camp was operational.
The site is open to the public and offers tours by way of a collaborative program between the Amache Preservation Society, the town of Granada, and Granada High School.
In the announcement, Park Service officials called the designation “an important step in telling a more complete story of the Japanese American incarceration during World War II.”