April 21, 2023 | NEWS | By Leigh Walden

Last Friday as some Colorado College students scurried across campus to avoid an onslaught of rain, sleet, and at some points hail, Colorado Senator Michael Bennet hunkered down in the garden level of Tutt Library to read through various primary sources from the Amache National Historic Site, which lies just east of CC in Granada, Colo.

The Amache Historic Site, formally known as the “Granada War Relocation Center” but referred to by many who were housed there as Camp Amache, had more than 10,000 people pass through it while it was open. The internment site detained primarily Japanese individuals, a majority of whom were American citizens. In 2021, alongside Senator Hickenlooper, Senator Bennet pushed for the passing of a bill that would recognize Amache as a national park. This bill passed and was signed March 18, 2022 making Amache Camp one of the newest American National Parks.

Camp Amache faced the 80th anniversary of its opening in 2022. Individuals who were detained at Amache had been pushing for the site to be made into a National Park for several years. In 2022 former detainees from Camp Amache sent a letter to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

In the letter, which was signed by over 50 survivors from Camp Amache, they write, “We are living history. We were among the over 7,500 individuals, mostly fellow U.S. citizens, who experienced the unconstitutional injustice and inhumane treatment at Amache, where during WWII we were forced to live as prisoners in our own country.”

Senator Bennet’s work towards recognition for these individuals continues as he moves to pursue writing another book of his own which may include parts of the history of Camp Amache in Colorado as well as Camp Hale, which was a military training facility that is located near Leadville, Colo. Research for this book and specifically attuning to the history of Camp Amache is what brought Senator Bennet to Special Collections at CC.

“This is a country where there’s always been this battle between the highest ideals that humans have ever written down on the page, and the worst impulses in human history,” Senator Bennet said. “This is potentially a really interesting story to tell about these two places that emerged at the same moment. You’ve got two camps, one a military camp, one a concentration camp, but the same bureaucracy.”

Professors from the southwest studies, English, and history departments on campus were also in attendance. Professor Brandon Shimoda from the English Department on Campus who teaches a course on Literature of Japanese American Incarceration shared that the re-discovery and acknowledgment of Japanese incarceration in the United States is a step towards recognition of harm done against these individuals and their families.

Some of the resources that Senator Bennet spent time with on Friday include notes from detainees, poems about their experiences, and reflections on their time at the internment facility. These documents can help bring to life some of the realities that individuals at Camp Amache faced while detained.

Special Collections Coordinator, Jessy Randall, helped coordinate the visit and handles these documents on a daily basis. She was excited to share this part of history with Senator Bennet saying, “A senator reading poems in the reading room. I think my job here is done.”

The timeline for when Senator Bennet’s book will come out has not yet been released, but it, alongside the Camp Amache becoming a national park, may bring what some consider much needed attention to an otherwise largely overlooked part of U.S. history.

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