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A place to reflect: Amache National Historic Site joins National Park System

Photo+courtesy+of+the+National+Park+Service
Collegian | NPS Photo
Photo courtesy of the National Park Service

National parks are often associated with beautiful mountains, landscapes and nature, but Colorado’s new national park site tells an important piece of history right where it happened.

The former Granada Relocation Center was designated the Amache National Historic Site by President Joe Biden in 2022, and the historical site is now formally introduced into the National Park System as of Feb. 15. Colorado lawmakers have been pushing to see the historical site join the National Park System, and support also came from Rep. Ken Buck, who represents the area in which the park is located.

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“Amache’s addition to the National Park System is a reminder that a complete account of the nation’s history must include our dark chapters of injustice,” National Park Service Director Charles Sams said in a statement from the U.S. Department of the Interior. “To heal and grow as a nation, we need to reflect on past mistakes, make amends and strive to form a more perfect union.”

“When people think about national park sites, they do include these, you know, wild or scenic open spaces, but they also include places that … represent some of the country’s most important history.” -Chris Mather, Amache National Historic Site manager

The Amache National Historic Site is located just outside the town of Granada, Colorado, and stands as a memory of the over 10,000 Japanese Americans who were detained at the Granada Relocation Center during World War II. The Amache site held over 7,000 people at most at a time. Amache was one of 10 relocation sites in the U.S. during that time. 

Following the attacks on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which authorized the incarceration of Japanese Americans. Soon after, Congress passed Public Law 503, which punished those who violated the order with up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

Before the NPS acquired the land, the town of Granada owned the Amache site. In order to become a national park, the land must be owned by the federal government. After undergoing a special resource study, the land was found to be significant enough to become a national park site.

“When people think about national park sites, they do include these, you know, wild or scenic open spaces, but they also include places that … represent some of the country’s most important history,” said Chris Mather, a site manager for the Amache National Historic Site.

The stories of the people held at the camp will continue to be told and preserved at the new park and will inform future generations of the area’s history.

“There’s stories that, you know, we need to preserve, and I think that as an American, you know, we need to hear the most,” Mather said. “It’s confronting mistakes from our past but also honoring the stories of those who were … imprisoned here at this site.”

The connection between the town of Granada and the Amache site is one that wasn’t seen elsewhere during the detainment program.

“There’s an interaction between these two communities that occurred out here that didn’t occur at any other site in the country because of the close proximity to each other,” Mather said.

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This week will see the introduction of new NPS information and signage at the site, and the process of hiring new park rangers to help the park has also begun. The historical site has received help from the local high school in the past, with students providing tours and information to visitors. Those students will continue to work alongside the park rangers, keeping the tradition going.

“Amache today is really a unique place,” Mather said. “It’s a place (to) reflect, recommit, and (it’s also) just a critical, important piece of American history. … Sites like this (are) an opportunity for people to learn about what happened here and kind of just get a greater understanding of the histories of the people that were here and the communities that surround them as well.”

Reach Tyler Weatherwax at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @twwax7272.

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About the Contributor
Tyler Weatherwax
Tyler Weatherwax, News Editor
Tyler Weatherwax is a second-year attending Colorado State University. He has lived in the state of Colorado for his entire life and grew up just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park. He is currently majoring in journalism and media communication and is a news editor for The Collegian and assistant news director for KCSU. Weatherwax hopes to share some of the world with people through his reporting and experiences. His goal as a journalist is to bring information to others in the hopes that it inspires and educates them in their lives. He also tries to push himself into the unknown to cause some discomfort in his life and reporting. Weatherwax has been a DJ for 90.5 FM KCSU as well as 88.3 FM KFFR. Some things Weatherwax enjoys doing are playing bass guitar, reading, collecting records, going outside and spending time with his friends and family. Weatherwax hopes to become a journalist after he graduates and to see more of the world.

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