A Japanese American Incarceration Camp in Colorado Is America’s Newest National Park

More than 10,000 Japanese Americans were imprisoned at the Granada Relocation Center, also known as Amache, during World War II

Historical image of Granada Relocation Center
The Granada Relocation Center, also known as Amache, had cramped Army-style barracks that housed thousands of Japanese Americans and people of Japanese descent. National Park Service

America officially has a new national park: Amache National Historic Site.

During World War II, the site in rural southeastern Colorado was an incarceration camp for Japanese Americans. Amache, also known as the Granada Relocation Center, was one of ten such facilities built after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Starting in 1942, the federal War Relocation Authority detained more than 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry. After forcibly removing the individuals from their communities, the government sent them to inland internment camps in Colorado, California, Arizona, Wyoming, Utah, Arkansas and Idaho.

At its peak, Amache held over 7,000 individuals—the majority of whom were American citizens. All told, between 1942 and 1945, more than 10,000 people were incarcerated on the 10,500-acre property, which was surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards. At one point, it was the tenth-largest city in Colorado.

Six other internment camps are already national parks—and now, Amache is officially joining them. In March 2022, President Joe Biden signed a law that made the site part of the National Park System. In the months that followed, the nearby town of Granada acquired and donated the land needed to establish the new national park.

Old green building at the site of the former Granada Relocation Center in Colorado
Today, Amache is mostly barren grassland dotted with crumbling foundations and a few historic buildings and replicas. Sarah Kuta

This month, with all the administrative loose ends tied up, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland formally established the Amache National Historic Site. Her February 15 announcement came just a few days before the national Day of Remembrance of Japanese Incarceration During World War II on February 19.

The site’s formal establishment will help “preserve and honor this important and painful chapter in our nation’s story for future generations,” said Haaland in the statement. “As a nation, we must face the wrongs of our past in order to build a more just and equitable future.”

Amache survivors and descendants welcomed the formal establishment, which had been years in the making.

“My first reaction was finally, okay, finally,” says Carlene Tinker, who lived at Amache when she was 3 years old, to KUNC’s Emma VandenEinde. “It’s a very proud moment. I’m thinking about all the people who endured the incarceration experience, and that finally their story is being told.”

Reassembled water tower at Granada Relocation Center
Teacher John Hopper and students at Granada High School have been working to preserve and maintain Amache since 1993. Working with other preservation groups, they located, reassembled and returned a water tower to the site. Sarah Kuta

Amache had military-style barracks, mess halls, a school, a hospital, a post office, a recreation center and other shared facilities. When the camp closed at the end of World War II, the federal War Assets Administration sold off many of its buildings. Today, Amache is mostly a bare plot of dusty grassland—all that remains are a few building foundations, the camp’s original street grid and some of the flowers planted by internees.

For 30 years, high school teacher John Hopper and his students have been leading the efforts to preserve Amache. The students—along with other preservation groups—have been working to reassemble Amache’s structures or, when that’s not possible, build recreations of its historic buildings.

The site is now eligible for federal assistance, including funding, which should help further preserve Amache’s history.

“We are standing on the shoulders of some giants, all the Amachians, including my dad, who thought that this would never happen, that there’s not enough people that cared,” says Mitch Homma, who leads the nonprofit Amache Alliance, to the Colorado Sun’s Kevin Simpson. “And we did it. And people do care.”

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