2021 Pilgrimage cover image

2021 Heart Mountain Pilgrimage

2021 Heart Mountain Pilgrimage

July 23-24, 2021

A lot of work went into the annual Heart Mountain Obon festival. Buddhist reverends pored over their services, volunteers spent weeks training dancers, and the Bussei clubs worked round the clock to make and hang decorations. For the Nikkei, Obon didn’t just honor the ancestors; it celebrated the survival of the Japanese American community. Locked inside Heart Mountain, the festival came to mean even more. It was a burst of vivid color against the drab backdrop of the high desert, and an unspoken promise between incarcerees that however bleak things looked now, they would make their future brighter.

Some of that Obon spirit persists today in the Heart Mountain Pilgrimage. Each year, we gather to reflect on the past and to pay our respects to those who came before us. But we also gather to strengthen our ties to one another, to commemorate our accomplishments, and to confirm our shared resolve to fight injustice. The Pilgrimage is about remembering, but it is also about what we do with the memory—how we preserve it, share it, and use it to transform the world around us.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Welcome to the 2021 Pilgrimage!

Our opening remarks are provided by Koji Tomita, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to the United States of America; Shirley Ann Higuchi, Board Chair, Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation; and Douglas Nelson, Vice Chair, Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation.

As is discussed in this film, we’re excited to announce plans for an addition to the interpretive center, the Mineta-Simpson Institute at Heart Mountain. Learn more about and support this endeavor here.

Why Call it Heart Mountain?

One of the first things visitors notice when they arrive at the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center is the iconic mountain west of the center. Join Director of Interpretation & Preservation Cally Steussy in exploring the history of the mountain that gave Wyoming’s Japanese American confinement site its name–and how the mountain got that name in the first place.

Origami with the Miharas: History & Lesson

Linda, Nobuo, and Shizuko Mihara from Paper Tree origami store in San Francisco discuss their family’s history with origami, which made the paper folding art more accessible to the wider American public after the war by publishing a book in English, and later creating the first instructional VHS tape. Stick around for a lesson on folding a flying crane!

Heart Mountain Through Digital Eyes: A Life in Pieces

In “A Life in Pieces,” the newest multimedia exhibit from the Japanese American National Museum, the writings and artwork of Stanley Hayami are brought to life through virtual reality and an interactive, 360-degree video that can be viewed on your mobile device. In this video, Clement Hanami describes the process of developing this innovative project.

Heart Mountain Through Digital Eyes: Augmented Reality Tour

In the summer of 2021, Heart Mountain Interpretive Center launched a new augmented reality tour of the historic site, developed by Jon Amakawa. In this video, Jon discusses the project’s history and explains how augmented reality can reveal hidden stories at sites like Heart Mountain.

Return to Foretop’s Father

Each summer, members of the Apsáalooke (Crow) tribe visit the sacred mountain that was once the heart of Crow country. Years after removing the Crow to a reservation in Montana, the government removed Japanese Americans to the camp at Heart Mountain. In July 2021, Japanese Americans and Crow alike gathered at the base of the mountain for an evening of reflection and solidarity. Attendees also memorialized Grant Bulltail, Crow elder and founder of the event.

The documentary film “Return to Foretop’s Father,” which features Grant Bulltail, is available to stream on the PBS website here.

Landmarks of Heart Mountain:

Welcome to Heart Mountain Interpretive Center

Welcome to the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center, which is dedicated to preserving the legacy of and educating the public about the Japanese American confinement site in northwestern Wyoming. Director of Interpretation & Preservation Cally Steussy introduces the story of the Japanese American incarceration.

The Barracks

The Heart Mountain confinement site had approximately 450 residential barracks. Former VISTA Museum Educator Genesis Ranel introduces the original barrack recently returned to the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center, as well as barrack life.

Heart Mountain Barracks Today

The Heart Mountain camp did not just vanish when the Japanese Americans left. Former Executive Director Dakota Russell explores the story of what happened to the Heart Mountain barracks in the years after the camp closed.

Heart Mountain High School

Only the records vault of the Heart Mountain High School remains in the fields that were once the residential area of the Heart Mountain camp. Join former Registrar Brandon Daake to learn more about the Heart Mountain High School and education in the camp.

The Swimming Hole

One of the challenges of life in a confinement site was finding things to do, especially for children. Former Executive Director Dakota Russell visits the remains of the Heart Mountain swimming hole for a look at recreational activities in the camp.

The Root Cellar

The Japanese Americans of the Heart Mountain camp were the first to farm this area of the Bighorn Basin. Visit the root cellar with Director of Interpretation & Preservation Cally Steussy to learn more about the Heart Mountain farms, and the cellars created to store the crops.

The Honor Roll

The Heart Mountain Honor Roll was raised by the people incarcerated at Heart Mountain to honor everyone who left the camp for military service. Join former Registrar Brandon Daake to learn more about the complicated history of Japanese American military service.

Heart Mountain Hospital

The remains of the hospital buildings are some of the only original structures from the Heart Mountain camp still in their original location. Join former Membership & Development Manager Deni Hirsh as she explains the story of the Heart Mountain hospital.

Heart Mountain Graves at Crown Hill Cemetery

Not everyone brought to the Heart Mountain camp left it again. Visit the Crown Hill Cemetery with former Executive Director Dakota Russell and hear the story of the three Issei men buried there, and the Heart Mountain graveyard.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Memorial Service for LaDonna Zall, 1934-2021

Heart Mountain’s Curator Emeritus, LaDonna Zall, passed away in June 2021. LaDonna played a key role in organizing and documenting our early artifact collections. She also led some of the very first tours of the Heart Mountain site. Speakers Joyce Harkness, Sam Mihara, and Douglas Nelson reflect on LaDonna’s life and accomplishments. Shirley Ann Higuchi then presents this year’s LaDonna Zall Compassionate Witness Award to Pete Simpson.

Dedication of the Sam Mihara Theater

Former Heart Mountain incarceree Sam Mihara has spent the last 10 years traveling around the country, speaking to groups–of all ages and sizes–about his boyhood years spent as a prisoner of his own government. Sam has donated all the proceeds from his programs to the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation.

At the Pilgrimage, we recognized Sam’s extraordinary commitment by naming the theater at Heart Mountain Interpretive Center in his honor. After an introduction by Shirley Ann Higuchi, Sam reflects on his decade of work raising awareness about the Japanese American incarceration.

As is discussed in this film, we’re excited to announce plans for an addition to the interpretive center, the Mineta-Simpson Institute at Heart Mountain. Learn more about and support this endeavor here.

Authors of Incarceration Panel

Join us for an insightful panel with the authors of the most popular books about Japanese American incarceration out now! Panelists include Frank Abe (We Hereby Refuse), Daniel James Brown (Facing the Mountain), Shirley Ann Higuchi (Setsuko’s Secret), and Bradford Pearson (The Eagles of Heart Mountain). Moderators: Ray Locker and Erin Aoyama

Presentation on Root Cellar & Barrack Projects

Learn about two of the most exciting projects happening at the Heart Mountain site! Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation executive director Dakota Russell and facilities committee chair Kris Horiuchi provide updates on the restoration of the barrack and cellar at Heart Mountain. These two original structures were donated to the Foundation in 2015, and will soon be opening to the public.

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