In recognition of the 80th anniversary of the unjust incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation will join with several other organizations– including the Friends of Minidoka, the Japanese American Citizens League, the Japanese American National Museum, the National Park Service, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, and the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders– on a collaborative virtual National Day of Remembrance program. Events will run from Friday, February 18 through Sunday, February 20. All events will be livestreamed on the National Park Service’s YouTube channel.
On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which led to the forced removal and incarceration of more than 120,000 Japanese Americans. Each year in February, the Japanese American community marks the date by holding Day of Remembrance events across the country. With many gatherings impacted by the COVID pandemic this year, more than 30 organizations from across the nation have banded together to hold a virtual National Day of Remembrance.
The weekend’s events will be presented by the Friends of Minidoka, the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation, the Japanese American Citizens League, the Japanese American National Museum, the National Park Service, and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, and the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. Other groups will be represented by speakers and panelists throughout the weekend. Friday’s opening presentation will feature a special message from Vice President Kamala Harris and Deputy Assistant to the President and Asian American and Pacific Islander Senior Liaison Erika L. Moritsugu.
Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation Executive Director Dakota Russell said that the involvement of so many community organizations and government representatives sends a powerful message. “The Day of Remembrance is about acknowledging a historical wrong,” Russell said, “but it’s also about affirming our commitment to stand against racial discrimination and injustice in the future. I’m proud to have so many partners standing with us to make that commitment.”
David Inoue, Executive Director of Japanese American Citizens League–the oldest and largest Asian American civil rights organization in the United States–said the Day of Remembrance is an important time for healing and reflection. “This is a time for the Japanese American community to remember and seek healing from the trauma that resulted from Executive Order 9066,” Inoue said. “We also use this time of reflection to consider our community’s experience in the context of other historic injustices and persistent racism in our country. We do this with the hope that we can work towards building a better, more perfect nation having learned from and seeking to make amends for these past wrongs.”
Norman Y. Mineta, former U.S. Secretary of Transportation and Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Japanese American National Museum, also commented on the dual purpose of the Day of Remembrance. “It is important that we look in the rearview mirror,” Mineta said, “but more important that we keep our hands firmly on the steering wheel, looking to the future to make sure that something like this never ever happens again to anybody.” As a boy, Mineta was incarcerated in the Heart Mountain camp.
To learn more about the National Day of Remembrance and view the full schedule of events and speakers, visit the National Museum of American History’s webpage about the event at https://americanhistory.si.edu/day-of-remembrance.
The Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation preserves the historic site where some 14,000 Japanese Americans were unjustly incarcerated in Wyoming from 1942 through 1945. Their stories are told within the Foundation’s museum, Heart Mountain Interpretive Center, located between Cody and Powell. For more information, visit https://www.heartmountain.org.
The Friends of Minidoka supports education, research and historic preservation of the WWII incarceration experience, and strives to pass on the history, legacy, and lessons of civil liberties through transforming and inspiring experiences for the general public and those with personal and familial ties to Minidoka. Learn more about their work at http://www.minidoka.org.
The Japanese American Citizens League’s mission is to secure and maintain the civil rights of Japanese Americans and all others who are victimized by injustice and bigotry. JACL works to promote cultural, educational and social values and to preserve the heritage and legacy of the Japanese American community. For more information about JACL and a list of other Day of Remembrance events, please go to https://jacl.org.
The Japanese American National Museum serves as the national repository of Japanese American history, and creates groundbreaking historical and arts exhibitions, educational public programs, award-winning documentaries, and innovative curriculum that illuminate the stories and the rich cultural heritage of people of Japanese ancestry in the United States. The Japanese American National Museum also speaks out when diversity, individual dignity and social justice are undermined, vigilantly sharing the hard-fought lessons accrued from this history. To learn more, visit https://www.janm.org.
The National Park Service preserves six unique parks across the country to honor the people who were incarcerated and help tell a more complete story of the impacts and injustice of their experience, including Manzanar National Historic Site, Minidoka National Historic Site, Tule Lake National Monument, Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial, Hono’uli’uli National Historic Site, and the National Memorial to Patriotism During WWII. Learn more about these sites and stories at https://www.nps.gov.
The Smithsonian National Museum of American History seeks to empower people to create a more just and compassionate future by examining, preserving and sharing the complexity of our past through incomparable collections, rigorous research and dynamic public outreach. The museum’s traveling exhibition “Righting a Wrong: Japanese Americans and World War II” is currently touring the nation. The museum’s doors are always open at https://americanhistory.si.edu.
The White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, established by President Joe Biden through Executive Order 14031, is charged with coordinating a whole-of-government approach to advance equity, justice, and opportunity for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. Visit https://www.hhs.gov/about/whiaanhpi to learn more.