NewsMontana and Regional News


Heart Mountain hosts 'Day of Remembrance'

Dakota Russell talking with teachers at the Heart Mountain on Saturday
Posted at 10:36 AM, Feb 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-21 12:39:52-05

Eighty years ago, on February 19, 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which led to the incarceration of 120,000 citizens and non-citizens of Japanese descent during World War II.

The Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation in Powell, Wyoming, co-hosted a three-day online event to commemorate and honor those people, and on Saturday, hosted a workshop for teachers at its interpretive center.

"It doesn't really resonate until you come out here into rural Northwestern Wyoming and you feel that cold wind blow against you in the wintertime," said Dakota Russell, director of the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation. "And the hopelessness that they must have felt that no one was out there for them. It must have been heartbreaking for them."

Russell talked about walking on the land that was the Heart Mountain Relocation Center and home to 14,000 of the 120,000 in the internment camps from 1942 to 1945.

Heart Mountain teachers.jpg
Dakota Russell talking with teachers at the Heart Mountain on Saturday

The Foundation and the Smithsonian National Museum of American History co-hosted the event.

"Each year, the Japanese-American community holds a day of remembrance on or close to date," Russell said.

Sam Mihara, who was interned at Heart Mountain, was one of the speakers at free workshop for teachers.

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Courtesy: Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation

For Mihara and others, it's more than telling their stories.

"They're thinking about how do we make sure that this doesn't happen to anybody else?," Russell said. "How do we make sure that we've learned something from this and that our nation moves on from this and never repeats these kinds of tragedies?"

And Russell says it's history important to every American.

"Human beings have a really hard time with thinking about the history when they're making decisions," Russell said. "Anytime a problem arises in front of us, we always seem to think that it's the very, first time that anyone has ever encountered it. And that's just not true. We can take these things that have happened before and even if they're not direct parallels, we can use the information we learn to inform ourselves and to make better decisions for the future."

A grant from ThinkWY, the Wyoming Humanities Council, helped with the workshop.