Eighty years ago, on February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which led to the removal and incarceration of 120,000 citizens and non-citizens of Japanese descent during World War II.
The Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation in Powell co-hosted a three-day online event and on Saturday, held a workshop for teachers at its interpretive center.
"It doesn't really resonate until you come out here into rural Northwestern Wyoming and you feel that cold wind blow against you in the wintertime," said Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation executive director Dakota Russell. "And the hopelessness that they must have felt that no one was out there for them. It must have been heartbreaking for them."
Russell talked about walking on the land that was the Heart Mountain Relocation Center and home to 14,000 of the 120,000 in the internment camps from 1942 to 1945.
The Foundation and the Smithsonian National Museum of American History put on the "National Day of Remembrance: 80 days of Reckoning."
"Each year, the Japanese-American community holds a day of remembrance on or close to date," Russell said.
Sam Mihara, who was interned at Heart Mountain, was one of the speakers at a free workshop for teachers. For Mihara and others, it's more than telling their stories.
"They're thinking about how do we make sure that this doesn't happen to anybody else?," Russell said. "How do we make sure that we've learned something from this and that our nation moves on from this and never repeats these kinds of tragedies?"
And Russell says it's history important to every American.
"Human beings have a really hard time with thinking about the history when they're making decisions," Russell said. "Anytime a problem arises in front of us, we always seem to think that it's the very, first time that anyone has ever encountered it. And that's just not true. We can take these things that have happened before and even if they're not direct parallels, we can use the information we learn to inform ourselves and to make better decisions for the future."
A grant from ThinkWY, the Wyoming Humanities Council, helped with the workshop.
Russell said the interpretive center will put on more workshops for teachers in the summer and the deadline to sign up is March 1.