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Why Has the National Park Service Acquired a Mostly Empty Square Mile of Prairie?

Margaret Lipman
Published May 15, 2024
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The term “national park” probably conjures up mental images of beautiful landscapes, energetic hikes, or leisurely picnics. Yet despite being a recent acquisition of the National Park Service, that’s not what you’ll find at Camp Amache.

Situated on the dusty prairie near the small town of Granada, Colorado, the Amache National Historic Site officially became part of the extensive National Park System in February 2024. Between 1942 and 1945, around 10,000 Japanese Americans were incarcerated here, in the one-square-mile Granada Relocation Center. Located near the Kansas border, a roughly 4-hour drive from Denver, it would be fair to say that the site is essentially in the middle of nowhere.

The Granada Relocation Center, also known as Camp Amache, was the smallest of 10 incarceration centers in the western United States that housed individuals of Japanese descent during World War II. Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, had finally drawn the U.S. into the war, unleashing a deep mistrust of Japanese Americans. Built on remote public land, the “relocation centers” ultimately imprisoned around 120,000 Japanese nationals and Japanese Americans (about two-thirds were U.S. citizens) who were removed from their homes by the power of the federal government's War Relocation Authority.

Although the Amache site was once so crowded that its population density was 50% greater than New York City, few buildings remain, with most demolished or sold after the last detainees left in October 1945. It was organized like a military camp, with 29 residential blocks containing crowded barracks with shared bathrooms, a mess hall, and a recreation hall. However, despite the barbed wire and guard towers surrounding the camp, the residents attempted to carry on with “normal” life, with hospitals, schools, gardens, and athletic and social activities.

Amache then and now:

  • History teacher John Hopper founded the Amache Preservation Society (APS) in the mid-1990s. The group, largely made up of student volunteers, reconstructed some of the buildings and founded the nearby Amache Museum, containing photographs and archeological finds from the site. Visitors to the new national historic site can take a self-driving tour devised by the APS and see restored buildings such as a guard tower, recreation hall, and cemetery.

  • U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland emphasized the importance of placing the land under federal protection and telling “a complete and honest story of our nation's history,” including the difficult topic of Japanese-American internment during World War II. "As a nation, we must face the wrongs of our past in order to build a more just and equitable future," she said.

  • The Amache National Historic Site received its official status just days before February 19, the annual day of remembrance of Japanese-American internment. On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which “authorized the forced removal of all persons deemed a threat to national security from the West Coast” and was used to justify the relocation of thousands of innocent men, women, and children of Japanese ancestry.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Margaret Lipman
By Margaret Lipman
With years of experience as an educator, Margaret Lipman produces thoughtful and informative content across a wide range of topics. Her articles cover essential areas such as finance, parenting, health and wellness, nutrition, educational strategies. Margaret's writing is guided by her passion for enriching the lives of her readers through practical advice and well-researched information.
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Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
With years of experience as an educator, Margaret Lipman produces thoughtful and informative content across a wide range...
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