Bennet, Neguse, Buck Welcome Senate Hearing on Bill to Add Amache to the National Park System

In June, Bennet Urged the Committee to Hold a Hearing on This Legislation

Washington, D.C. – Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D) and Colorado U.S. Representatives Joe Neguse (D) and Ken Buck (R) welcomed the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing on their bill to establish the Amache National Historic Site, a former Japanese American incarceration facility outside of Granada, Colorado, as part of the National Park System. Colorado U.S. Senator John Hickenlooper (D) spoke in favor of the bill at the hearing today.

Bennet and Hickenlooper introduced this legislation in the Senate earlier this year. Companion legislation, introduced by Neguse and Buck, passed the U.S. House of Representatives in July, just three months after the pair introduced the legislation. Bennet and Hickenlooper urged the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources to hold a hearing to consider this bill. 

“The forced removal of Japanese Americans during World War II to incarceration facilities like Amache is a shameful and dark period in American history that we must never forget,” said Bennet. “Adding Amache to the National Park System preserves its story to help future generations learn from our mistakes. I’m glad the Senate held a hearing on this important bill, and I’ll continue working to get this over the finish line.”

“The landscapes, cultural places, and stories we choose to protect reflect our values as a nation. And the story of Amache is an important one, ” said Neguse, Chair of U.S. House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands. “As Chair of the U.S. Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands I was proud to usher our bill to designate the Amache National Historic Site through the House in a matter of months. I urge the Senate to move with the same swift urgency to consider and pass this bipartisan bill. Designation of Amache as a National Historic Site will help us to honor and preserve the stories of many survivors who lived through this dark moment in our nation’s history, and provide education and healing for future generations. Our bill has broad, expansive support and completing the designation will honor all Amache survivors and descendants.”

“The Amache National Historic Site Act recognizes the awful injustices committed against Japanese Americans who were placed in internment camps, while preserving the site for the citizens of Colorado — and the United States — to visit and learn from in the future,” said Buck. “I am grateful to my colleagues in the House for voting to pass the act and applaud my colleagues on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources for moving it forward. I hope our Senate counterparts continue to prioritize swift passage for those who were detained at Camp Amache, and their families.” 

“Today’s hearing of the Amache National Historic Site Act in the Senate brings me hope and I thank Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper for their leadership. I now urge the Senate to pass this bill. The time is not only right; it is long overdue,” said Bob Fuchigami, Amache survivor. 

“As a former Amachean and as a volunteer for the Amache Field School, I have learned the importance of having Amache as a National Park unit, as it would illustrate the hardships and the perseverance of the incarcerated people. It would also point to the injustice of their being placed there, simply because of their ethnicity, not because of what they had done. Most importantly, it would signify the reasons that further groups, such as Muslims, should not be treated as were the Japanese Americans—there have been hints of this in current times,” said Carlene Tanigoshi Tinker, Amache survivor.

“The Amache site as a National Park unit highlights the injustices of the internment of Japanese Americans, one of our nation’s darkest chapters. Colorado is home to world-class national parks and adding the Amache site honors those values and our history. I hope the congressional leadership and all members of the Senate will join Coloradans and myself in supporting this valuable and honorable initiative,” said Jared Polis, Governor of Colorado.

“I applaud the Senate Committee and Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper for hearing the Amache National Historic Site Act and I urge the Senate to set a vote. This legislation will preserve and memorialize a site that has the power to shed light upon a mistake we must remember, recall the service and sacrifice of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and celebrate the Constitutional vision of Colorado Governor Ralph Carr. All these things are worthy of doing and doing so will make us better American citizens,” said Calvin Taro Hada, Amache descendant and President, The Japanese Association of Colorado, dba The Nikkeijin Kai of Colorado. 

“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 the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, and the leadership of Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper, for today’s hearing of the Amache National Historic Site Act, and urge the Senate to see this through,” said Dr. Karen Korematsu, Founder and Executive Director, The Fred T. Korematsu Institute.

“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, I urge Congress to pass the Amache National Historic Site Act,” said John Hopper, Amache Preservation Society and Granada School District.

“We applaud the leadership of Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper and the enduring voice of the Amache community. As America's storyteller, what the National Park Service chooses to preserve and the stories it chooses to tell reflects our values as a nation, and Amache challenges us all to act toward a better future where justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion are America’s top priority. Time is of the essence. We urge Congress to keep the momentum going and look forward to swiftly getting this bill through the Senate and to President Biden’s desk,” said Tracy Coppola, Senior Colorado Program Manager, National Parks Conservation Association.

“Canyons & Plains supports the Amache National Historic Site Act. We believe the addition of Amache as a unit of the National Park System will be of great benefit to our region. In a struggling area, even pre-pandemic, having another attraction for visitors will only add to the potential for economic development and tourist dollars to help our local economies. But even more important than that, such a designation will ensure that a vital tale is told so that we may not forget both the transgressions and the will to overcome that define the story of America,” said Rick Wallner, President, Board of Directors, Canyons & Plains of Southeast Colorado Regional Heritage Taskforce. 

“We applaud today’s Senate hearing of the Amache National Historic Site Act and urge the full Senate to pass this important legislation. 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,” said Scott Levin, Regional Director, Anti-Defamation League Mountain States Region.

“We applaud today’s Senate committee hearing of the Amache National Historic Site Act and urge the Senate to act swiftly on a vote.  Building on this work is especially important today as our nation seeks to better understand prejudice and to advance racial healing. We strongly support the Amache National Historic Site Act and believe the site’s inclusion in our National Park System will help to provide the American public with more opportunities to better understand and appreciate one of the most difficult chapters in our nation’s diverse history,” said Phil Francis, Chair, Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks.

“We commend the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks for today’s hearing, as well as Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper 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,” said Michelle Magalong, PhD, president of Asian and Pacific Islander Americans in Historic Preservation. 

“The history of Colorado mirrors the larger context of the United States to a remarkable degree, and the Amache site is a critical resource that offers an unsparing insight into the gulf that divides the nation’s ideals from the implementation of public policies that shredded the promises guaranteed in the Constitution. Along with the nearby Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, the site of Amache reminds us that the American experience has been and remains a work in progress. Today’s Senate hearing on the Amache National Historic Site Act is a compelling statement that the nation remains committed to coming to terms with its often-contradictory history,” said Tom Thomas, Ph.D., Sand Creek Massacre Foundation Board of Directors.

“Preserving and protecting the Amache site are essential factors toward our 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. I call on Congress to pass the Amache National Historic Site Act,” said Derek Okubo, Amache descendant and Executive Director, Agency for Human Rights and Community Partnerships, City and County of Denver.

“The Colorado Municipal League Executive Board voted unanimously to support the Amache National Historic Site Act and the amazing collaboration between all of the various groups. Local governments in the region and their outstanding partners have worked hard to secure the national park site designation, so that this important part of our nation’s history is not lost and that future generations may travel to see and learn from that history. The League is grateful to Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper for their leadership and looks forward to a swift Senate passage,” said Kevin Bommer, Executive Director, Colorado Municipal League.

“As a young boy at Amache, I never thought I’d see an America that cared about my story. Today’s Senate committee hearing moves us closer to making the dream of honoring Amache as a national park a reality. Thanks to the committee and to Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper for this big step forward, and now I will be watching for the Senate to approve and pass this bill that I’ve waited to see for so long and that will benefit us all,” said Ken Kitajima, Amache survivor.

“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. Passing the Amache National Historic Site Act will encourage thoughtful dialogue about the widespread intergenerational effects of incarceration that continue to shape the Japanese American experience to this day,” said Kirsten Leong, Amache descendant.

“Amache should be considered a National Historic Site as well as a WWII memorial to honor the 120,000 individuals who ‘served our country through incarceration.’  My grandfather died there, cousins were born there and all left after “serving” the U.S. in a time of war.  When I think of Amache, I am proud of all those who sacrificed their lives with humble dignity and courage beyond anything I have ever had to endure.  And, yes, proud that America could recognize its mistakes and provide the opportunity for the descendants to fulfill many of the dreams that were stolen,” said Ken Tsukada, Amache descendant.

“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 passage of the Amache National Historic Site Act is critical to accurately defining the past and honoring those who were interned by sharing their experiences, and I strongly urge the Senate to pass this act. The stories of Amache, Governor Ralph Carr, and many Amache internees who still reside in Colorado are important elements for the growth of our state, country, and generations to come,” said Stacey Shigaya, Program Director, Sakura Foundation.

Background

Amache was one of ten Japanese American incarceration facilities across the country. During World War II, nearly 10,000 Japanese Americans passed through Amache and over 7,000 lived there between 1942 and 1945. According to the National Park Service (NPS), today “the cemetery, a reservoir, a water well and tank, the road network, concrete foundations, watch towers, the military police compound, and trees planted by the internees still remain.” Amache is currently a National Historic Landmark maintained by the Amache Preservation Society, established by John Hopper, a social studies teacher who is currently the principal of Granada High School, and powered by student volunteers from the high school. 

In May 2017, Hopper guided Bennet during his visit to Amache. In May 2018, Bennet, Buck, and former U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), introduced the Amache Study Act, which directed the Department of the Interior to conduct a Special Resource Study (SRS) to assess Amache’s historical significance and determine the feasibility of adding the site to the National Park System. The act was signed into law in 2019 as part of the Dingell Conservation Act. After the study was underway, the community asked Bennet, Hickenlooper, Neguse and Buck to introduce legislation to formally add Amache to the National Park System.