One of the upsides of the hike from Hades was that I overheard a perky hiker along the way, talking about an attraction she’d visited recently and really enjoyed: Heart Mountain.
You can look at Heart Mountain, pictured above (I never really saw the “heart,” do you?) while I share a bit of history.
In WWII, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, people of Japanese descent in America were not viewed favorably. Their businesses were not patronized. They were suspected of … who knows? Maybe conspiring to plan another attack? Anyway, FDR decided we’d be better off if all those sneaky Japs were kept together where they could be supervised. So, he ordered the construction of ten internment camps throughout the US to house them. Many of these camps were in remote locations, like Heart Mountain. Rural Wyoming is no-doubt remote, and many of the Japanese were bused there from the west coast, where they lived.
Side note: if I learned about these internment camps at all in school, it must have been mentioned only briefly, because I have no memory of it. However, I do remember certain other things — endless paragraphs about the TVA (a New Deal-type project), the CCC, and things like that. I’ve only recently learned about the dilemma of Japanese in America during WWII, due mainly to reading books such as Thin Wood Walls. It does make you realize that textbooks and teachers can have an agenda. It’s often up to us to learn the complete story.
I decided we definitely needed to add Heart Mountain to our itinerary. Heart Mountain Interpretive Center has only recently opened. It’s really well-done: first, you enter and get a ticket, similar to that given to each Japanese resident as they got onto the bus that would take them to their new home. Then we saw a film about the history, and walked through the center. There were many well-done exhibits helping to understand the issues of the time. There was even a room made up to look like one that a family would have lived in.
The apartment is nice enough — we’re not talking concentration camp here. Still, one woman wrote that the worst thing was the loss of freedom. The people living in these camps could not leave. They had to shower together, and spend their days farming or doing other tasks around the camp. They had to leave their homes, bringing only what fit into a suitcase. In many cases, when they did return home, their possessions had been plundered.