Wandering WY: Heart Mountain Interpretive Center
Updated: Nov 8, 2020
Before enjoying the brilliant sun this last weekend. My visiting friend and I took some time to visit the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center near Powell, Wyoming. The out of the way location for the center wasn’t lost on us as we headed out of town.
The culture of the United States is changing but history is not. There are dark marks on every page of every era of that story but does this really surprise anyone? We are dealing with severely imperfect human beings after all! Humans who react out of fear, hatred, anger, curiosity, love… There is a reason that the Wild West was described by big city Eastern newspapers as a lawless frontier.
None of us can get in a time machine, go back, and change what happened. Feel free to disagree with me but I’m of the opinion that we shouldn’t feel guilty for something we have absolutely no control over, a) other people’s actions in history, b) where we are born, and c) who we were born to. If you’re going to let those things define you then you’re always going to be held back in the past.
We aren’t supposed to BE the past, we are supposed to LEARN FROM the past! If we don’t own this lesson for ourselves, history will repeat itself just as it always has.
The Heart Mountain Interpretive Center commemorates just one such devastating epoch in our history. They seek to tell the stories of those who lived through this time and to remind visitors that this is something we cannot allow to happen in our country ever again!
In the 1940s, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order that removed Japanese Americans from their homes and businesses in areas where they were considered to be a threat to national security. This included the states of California, Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii. If I missed one, I apologize. they were then brought to “internment camps” in isolated regions of the country where they were kept until the end of World War II. One of these was at the base of Heart Mountain. The vast majority of these people were American citizens whose rights under United States law were violated without due process of the law, simply because of their race matched that of the enemy in the Pacific Theater of the War.
Decades after the War, the United States made reparations to the Japanese Americans who lived through this travesty but most will tell you that it was too little, too late.
It was heartbreaking to walk through the Center learning about each hardship that those who once lived there endured. There is no doubt in my mind that how they were treated was absolutely wrong! Yet, these amazing survivors also talked about how they loved their country, the United States, and how even though they were angry and confused about how they were being treated, they wanted to build positive relationships with their neighboring communities and dispel the fear that their friends in the U.S. now felt toward them.
The exhibit that really stuck with me, told the story of young Japanese Americans who volunteered to serve as soldiers and translators in the War. They were actually the most decorated soldiers of World War II and their acts of courage are absolutely astounding!
In one gallery, an artist who lived in the camp as a young man had painted the surreal scenes he remembered from living in the shadow of Heart Mountain. It was sobering taking in those memories. In the response book, I wrote that the painting showed landscapes familiar to my own childhood but marred with sadness and suffering that I couldn’t begin to relate to. I wrote that my hope for my country is that one day we can love each other beyond color, beyond cultural differences, and beyond our shallow perceptions.
Unfortunately, I think it’s going to be a while before that dream is realized. Hatred and fear of one another seem to be a popular recreational hobby from all sides these days, especially if you spend any amount of time on social media. Honestly, I’m tired of all the anger and word games.
I was born who I am, imperfections and all. You were born who you are, imperfections and all.
I think we could be friends!
Is that something we could try for a change?
Either way, I highly recommend visiting this very educational center!
Thank you, fellow adventurers! You can follow the lilmissbearpaw blog page on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @lilmissbearpaw for sneak peeks into upcoming posts and my adventures. This will also be a great place to share your own adventures!