Mineta-Simpson Institute at Heart Mountain

Blue rectangle featuring logo for the Mineta-Simpson Institute

The leadership of the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation is thrilled to announce the Mineta-Simpson Institute at Heart Mountain: A planned expansion to our award-winning Heart Mountain Interpretive Center and a bold new vision for the future of our organization.

Over the past several years, fear and anger have become the dominant forces in American politics. For our elders, who were unjustly imprisoned during World War II because of their race, this political climate feels all too familiar. To satisfy our mission, we realize the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation must not only educate about the past, but also help shape the kind of leaders we need for the future.

The Mineta-Simpson Institute will be a dedicated retreat space at the center, a home for workshops and programming specifically designed to foster empathy, courage, and cooperation in the next generation of leaders. The Institute will also expand the Foundation’s capacity for digital outreach, allowing us to carry our message all over the world. 

Introducing: The Mineta Simpson Institute at Heart Mountain

We are inspired in this endeavor by the lives, accomplishments, and—most of all—the friendship of Senator Alan K. Simpson and the late Secretary Norman Y. Mineta, who met as boys at Heart Mountain and spent decades putting aside their political differences to work together and better the lives of all Americans.

Two American Legends

Photo by Bacon Sakatani

One time, we were having dinner and someone came up to us and said, “Senator Simpson, you’re a conservative Republican and he’s a liberal Democrat, what’s the biggest difference between the two of you?” Alan thought about it and he said, “Well, I wear size 15 shoes and he wears a size 8 and a half.”

Norman Mineta

In 1942, the US government forced more than 110,000 Japanese Americans—men, women, and children—from their homes and incarcerated them at ten camps in remote locations across the country. The government claimed these Japanese Americans were acting as spies and saboteurs, aiding the enemy. Yet, they never produced any evidence of wrongdoing. Young Norman Mineta and his family were among those sent from their home in San Jose, California to Heart Mountain, Wyoming. 

Alan Simpson grew up in Cody, Wyoming, just 13 miles from the Heart Mountain camp. Simpson was at first frightened when his Scoutmaster announced a visit to the incarcerated Japanese American Boy Scouts inside Heart Mountain. Once at the camp, Simpson and Mineta were paired up to share a pup tent. Neither forgot the friendship forged during those few days spent together at Heart Mountain. 

Years later, Mineta would be elected the first Asian American mayor of San Jose, and go on to serve 20 years as a US Congressman for California. Though a Democrat, Mineta’s reputation won him favor across party lines. President Clinton appointed him as Secretary of Commerce in 2000 and President George W. Bush named him Secretary of Transportation in 2001. 

Simpson spent 12 years in the Wyoming Statehouse before serving 3 terms as the Republican Senator from Wyoming. In 2010, at the request of President Obama, Simpson served as co-chair of the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility.

Throughout their long careers, spent on opposite sides of the political aisle, Mineta and Simpson maintained the friendship they built as children. Their patriotism and values overcame their political differences, and they worked together to find common ground. Among their proudest accomplishments was the passage of the 1988 Civil Liberties Act, which provided redress for Japanese Americans unjustly imprisoned during World War II. Mineta and Simpson are now united in their support for the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation and our efforts to learn from history and build a better tomorrow.

Tribute photo for Norman Mineta

Remembering Norman Y. Mineta

On Monday, May 3, 2022, Norman Yoshio Mineta passed away. Read our full tribute HERE.

Read the remarks of Honorary Co-Chairs Deni Mineta & Ann Simpson about their husbands’ relationship over the years and the inception of the Mineta-Simpson Institute:

Norman & Deni Mineta and Alan & Ann Simpson at a Heart Mountain Pilgrimage

Our New Facility

Birds eye view of the proposed design of the new wing of the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center, the Mineta-Simpson Institute
The Mineta-Simpson Institute, a new wing of Heart Mountain Interpretive Center, is designed to evoke the architecture of the camp’s communal mess halls.

The Mineta-Simpson Institute will be a 7,341 square foot addition to Heart Mountain Interpretive Center. Just as the center was designed to evoke the architecture of Heart Mountain’s residential barracks, the Institute will resemble one of the camp’s mess halls. 

The mess halls provided more than just meals for incarcerated Japanese Americans. They were one of the few places in camp where people could gather to discuss and debate the issues impacting their community. In reflecting the mess hall design, we intend the Mineta-Simpson Institute to carry on that tradition as a place to exchange information and ideas.

View the floor plan for the new addition onto the Interpretive Center:

Features of the Mineta-Simpson Institute at Heart Mountain will include:

  • A dynamic meeting space capable of hosting more than 200 people for workshops and programming, supported by a full kitchen and dedicated facilities.
  • A modern digital production and broadcasting studio, from which we can both livestream in-person events and create original online content.
  • A permanent exhibit telling the stories of Norman Mineta and Alan Simpson.
  • Additional storage for our growing collection of original artifacts and archives.
  • The LaDonna Zall Research Lab, a dedicated space where researchers can work with both archival documents and an expansive library of materials about the incarceration.
  • Additional office and storage space to support the activities of the Institute.

Our Programming Goals

Interior view of proposed design of Mineta-Simpson Institute
An internal view of the proposed design for the Mineta-Simpson Institute.
The main room will feature a view of Heart Mountain.

Relevant and engaging programming is key to the success of the Mineta-Simpson Institute at Heart Mountain. These are just some of the offerings we are working on for this new space:

Leadership Workshops:

Targeted toward community organizers, public administrators, legislators, and other leaders on the local, state, and national level, these workshops will provide participants with practical ways to improve discourse, building alliances across political and ideological lines, and practice ethical leadership in their communities.

Educator Workshops:

The best way to effect future change is to start with the youth. These workshops will give K-12 educators the tools they need to meaningfully engage students in conversations about civic responsibility, civil rights, and social justice in their classrooms.

Maurice Walk Lecture Series:

The Institute will host top speakers and scholars from across the nation, presenting on topics that reflect both American history and issues of the present day. This series honors lawyer Maurice Walk, who resigned his government position in protest of the unconstitutional treatment of Japanese Americans.

Artist Series:

This series of performances and talks will reflect the arts tradition present within the Heart Mountain camp, and will recognize the important role the arts play in helping us to understand our shared history and build empathy with one another.

Public Programming:

We believe in the power of an informed and engaged citizenry. Throughout the year, we will offer public programs that encourage open dialogue and the exchange of ideas on issues of import to our communities.

Private Retreats:

The Institute will be available for rent to corporations, nonprofits, and other organizations who wish to impart their meetings with a sense of history and greater purpose. Programs and workshop sessions from trained Heart Mountain staff will also be made available to these groups.

Fundraising Campaign

EVERY GIFT is SIGNIFICANT. Please make a personal commitment, and consider how you can connect us to individuals, businesses and foundations in your sphere of influence that would be interested in learning more about this campaign.

Now is the perfect time to provide a historically significant place where people can gather to voice their opinions and find common ground. The Mineta-Simpson Institute at Heart Mountain—an expansion of our award-winning Interpretive Center—will provide such a place. The Institute will honor Norman Mineta and Alan Simpson, whose life-long friendship began at a Boy Scout Jamboree at Heart Mountain. These two young boys from different ethnic and political backgrounds founded a friendship rooted in respect. Today, respect is not common, but the Mineta-Simpson Institute—in the shadow of Heart Mountain—will provide a place where respect is possible.

Kathy Saito Yuille & Claudia Wade
Campaign Co-Chairs