Preserving History in Colorado’s New National Historic Site
A new crown jewel was added to the national park system when President Joe Biden signed the Amache National Historic Site Act into law on March 18. Amache, also known as the Grenada Relocation Center, is a World War II internment camp for Japanese Americans located near Grenada, Colorado. Under the new law, the The National Park System will “preserve, protect, and interpret for the benefit of present and future generations the resources associated with the incarceration of civilians of Japanese ancestry during World War II at Amache.”
Professor Bonnie Clark of the Department of Anthropology has directed a University of Denver School of Archeology and Collections at Amache since 2008. She talks about Amache’s new National Historic Landmark designation in this interview with the Newsroom. FROM.
President Biden signed into law the Amache National Historic Site Act on March 18. What was your involvement in the law?
The work of the DU Amache project supported passage of the law in several ways. First, we have been collecting data on significant archaeological resources in Amache since 2008. Our findings have helped support the case for Amache’s addition to the national park system by highlighting how valuable these resources are and stretches. Second, as collaborative research, we helped create connections that make good advocacy. Both in the field and in the museum, we bring together people across generations and different regional and cultural backgrounds who share a commitment to preserving this place. Finally, professors, staff, students and alumni of the project responded to the call of different groups to contribute to public dialogue about the site and the legislation to protect it.
How does this designation differ from the former Amache National Historic Landmark?
National Historic Landmark status identifies a site as being of national significance and provides certain benefits to site owners, but it does not mean that they are managed by the federal government. Amache has been an NHL since 2006, but was still owned by the city [Granada, Colorado] and run by a small voluntary organization. As a National Historic Site, Amache will be owned and operated by the National Park Service (NPS) who will have staff to maintain and interpret the site.
What does this designation mean for the future of Amache?
More importantly, the NPS must manage the sites with a long-term perspective: its resources must be preserved in perpetuity. However, tThe transition to National Park Service ownership and management will take time, so for a while things at the site and at the Amache Museum won’t be much different. But over time, as the NPS puts in place a management and interpretive plan, you’ll likely see rangers interacting with visitors to the site and the construction of a visitor center.
Will this have an impact on your ongoing research?
The NPS has an unfunded mandate for full archaeological surveys of all their properties, so our work will really help the park in its mission. Because we come with expertise and grants, it is likely that we will continue to be welcome to continue our field schools. Of course, we’ll have to check with the NPS to make sure we have their permission and are following their policies.
After a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19, the University of Denver’s Amache Field School will resume this summer. What will your teams be working on?
We plan to survey the block where the high school was. This is a very important place for the community of Amache survivors and we look forward to sharing our findings with them at a community open house. We will also be digging a mess hall garden for the first time. We hope that the intensive garden archeology techniques we have developed will be a model for the park to follow if it develops this garden or other gardens on the site.