Heart Mountain, Wyoming can be a somber but important experience, especially for people who may be of Japanese American descent. Visiting the grounds is a stark reminder of what they have overcome and how much more work we have to do with racial and social issues in the United States. Located around 14 miles to the east of Cody, Wyoming in Powell, the Heart Mountain Foundation of Wyoming helped the Interpretive Center to open its doors in August 2011.
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However, the real center that the Interpretive Center hopes to help people better understand was opened in 1942 and saw over 14,000 prisoners during the three years it was in operation. The last prisoners left Heart Mountain in November 1945. The Interpretive Center has been awarded many honors since its inception.
Most guests who visit Heart Mountain choose to take themselves on a self-guided tour of the grounds, which allows them to take in the immensity of the experience without the pressure of having to stay with a group. The premises have a 1000-foot-long paved walkway/walking trail that takes most visitors an average of around half an hour to complete. There are also benches placed along the trail for visitors to use for their convenience and comfort.
There is a map located on the website and also on the grounds that points out the 8 stopping points on the self-guided tour.
The Hospital Complex
MP Station, Guard Tower, and Train Station
Agricultural and Root Cellars
The Swimming Hole
Heart Mountain High School
Relocation Center Support Facilities
The Interpretive Center is home to the many different photographs, artifacts, and interactive exhibits that are on permanent display. These exhibits help guests be able to see the experiences of the prisoners here through the eyes of the Japanese Americans that were imprisoned here during World War Two. It also provides guests with an overview of the way that these people were relocated here and why (going into the background of the anti-Asian discrimination and prejudice going on in the United States). Visitors will be able to see and feel the experience of what their incarceration was like and how that corresponded with the racial and social tensions in the US.
There is also a digital exhibit for perusal on their website that focuses on the women of color at Heart Mountain and how they went on to be successful and important figures in their own rights, despite their early unfair incarceration. Women like Louise Suski, who became a journalist, and Amy Iwasaki, who is currently a professor (Emerita) at Whittier College as well as serving on the Heart Mountain Advisory Board.
The center is open different hours seasonally. In the Winter (October 2nd through May 14th), they are open from 10:00am to 5:00pm from Wednesday through Saturday. In the Summer (May 15th through October 1st), they are open 10:00am to 5:00pm from Wednesday through Saturday and by appointment. Admission fees apply, however, children 12 and under are admitted free.
Due to the important historical context that the grounds represent, field trips are strongly encouraged to Heart Mountain. Teachers should fill out the request form located on their website or by calling them directly for additional information. The educators located onsite are very happy to give students of all ages guided tours and presentations specific to the desired lesson plan on request. Field trips may also include the walking tour as well, also on request. There is a small fee required per student for guided experiences. There are curriculum guides available on the website for teachers to look through prior to the visit as well, which may help plan lessons prior to the field trip to Heart Mountain. For classes located too far away for an on-site field trip, there are also off-site lessons that can be made available by contacting the staff. These can include grade specific lessons and curriculum for a reasonable fee. Teachers should also be sure to check out the suggested readings.
Visiting the shop allows guests to not only contribute to the maintenance of the grounds by donating and/or becoming a member, but also by purchasing various gifts like books, DVDs, shirts, hats, bowls, and ornaments. Not only can they take a piece of their visit with them, but they are also helping the care of the center.
Heart Mountain, 1539 Road 19, Powell, WY, 82435, website, Phone: 307-754-8000