August 2, 2022

Several Densho staff members were honored to be among the attendees of the 2022 Heart Mountain Pilgrimage this past weekend. This was Heart Mountain’s first major on-site pilgrimage since the start of the pandemic and the appreciation for community and connection permeated the entire event. 

This year’s pilgrimage was dedicated to the decades-long friendship of Alan K. Simpson and Norman Y. Mineta, who passed away in May. A major highlight was the groundbreaking for the Mineta-Simpson Institute, a dedicated retreat space at the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center that will serve as a home for workshops and programming specifically designed to foster empathy, courage, and cooperation in the next generation of leaders. 

Scroll through the photos below for more highlights from the weekend.

A man kneeling on the ground using a kakigori machine to make shaved ice.
Marvin Inouye operating a kakigori machine to make shaved ice — a much appreciated treat in the Wyoming summer heat!
Caitlin Oiye Coon giving a presentation to a room of people at the Heart Mountain pilgrimage.
Dozens attended a family history and genealogy workshop led by Densho Archives Director Caitlin Oiye Coon. Over the course of the pandemic, there has been a surge of interest in family history since people have had more time to clean out their family papers and to delve into genealogy projects. Caitlin loved getting to connect with some of these family history enthusiasts in person, but also encourages anyone interested in this topic to check out our virtual resources and attend our upcoming free webinar, Introducing the 1950 U.S. Federal Census, with Linda Harms Okazaki.
Caitlin Oiye Coon smiling and standing in front of a projector screen with a slide that reads "Family History and Genealogy Workshop. Heart Mountain Pilgrimage. 28 July 2022."
Caitlin Oiye Coon at Densho’s Family History & Genealogy Workshop on day one of the pilgrimage.
A person sitting at the control board in a dark auditorium and watching the film Omoiyari being screening on stage.
Acclaimed musician Kishi Bashi and co-director Justin Taylor Smith screened Omoiyari: A Songfilm, which follows Kishi Bashi on a journey to explore the history of Japanese American WWII incarceration and what it means to be Japanese, American, and something in between. Omoiyari will be released to theaters and then streaming platforms soon, so stay tuned for a chance to watch!
Group photo of a discussion group at the Heart Mountain pilgrimage.
On day two, attendees participated in multigenerational discussion groups to share their connections to Heart Mountain and reflect on their experiences at the pilgrimage. We were lucky to share these spaces with many survivors who were incarcerated at Heart Mountain as children, and so grateful to hear their stories.
Two Nisei sisters at the Heart Mountain pilgrimage.
Sisters Louise and Lois were incarcerated at Heart Mountain as babies. The 2022 pilgrimage was their first time returning.
Erin Aoyama giving a presentation to a room of people. A slide that reads "Seeing Memory: Landscapes of Japanese American Incarceration" is projected on a screen behind her.
Erin Aoyama previewed Seeing Memory: Landscapes of Japanese American Incarceration, a new digital storytelling and mapping project premised on the belief that the landscape is a crucial piece of the archive of Japanese American incarceration. The project, co-created by Brown University PhD candidates Aoyama and Nicole Sintetos, will culminate in a website that hosts virtual walking tours of the incarceration sites, especially the lesser-known Department of Justice sites, citizen isolation centers, and U.S. Army internment camps. The ultimate goal of the project is to explore hidden histories and illuminate the intersections between Japanese American experiences during WWII and broader landscapes of racism, settler colonialism, and incarceration.
Heart Mountain survivor Sam Mihara giving a presentation to a room of people. One participant in the foreground has a denim jacket with a sketch of Heart Mountain and sashiko stitching draped over the back of their chair.
Heart Mountain survivor Sam Mihara shared memories from his family’s imprisonment at the camp during WWII, and offered some powerful lessons about how this history can teach us to stand up against fear and hatred today.
Landscape with Heart Mountain rising over a wide field and an old barbed wire fence in the foreground.
A view of Heart Mountain from the former concentration camp. On the third and final day of the pilgrimage, attendees visited the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center and what remains of the WWII incarceration site.
Guard tower at the Heart Mountain site.
Guard tower at the Heart Mountain site.
The former hospital at Heart Mountain. There are two decaying buildings and a large chimney.
The hospital at Heart Mountain.
Flowers growing against the wall of the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center, which is modeled after a concentration camp barrack.
Flowers growing outside of the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center, which is modeled after the barracks where Japanese Americans lived while they were imprisoned here. The flowers are a nod to the gardens that many incarcerees planted in an effort to bring a little beauty to the harsh camp environment.
The exterior of an original barrack at Heart Mountain.
An original barrack that housed Heart Mountain incarcerees during WWII. The barracks were given to homesteaders as the camp closed, and many, though repurposed, are still scattered on farms and ranches throughout the area. The Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation was able to bring this one back to the historic site to give visitors a glimpse at the stark living conditions that greeted Japanese Americans upon their arrival at the camp.
Heart Mountain board members and volunteers speaking to a group of people inside the barrack.
Kris Horiuchi, her daughter Katie, and Prentiss Uchida describe conditions in the camp barracks and how Japanese Americans worked to transform their living spaces over time. Uchida was incarcerated at Heart Mountain as a child and told us how many incarcerees used chamba, or chamber pots, to avoid late night trips to the latrines — and to cut their children’s hair! (Think bowl cut, camp edition.)
A view of the Heart Mountain landscape from within the barrack.
A view of the surrounding landscape from within the barrack.
Densho staff Caitlin Oiye Coon, Nina Wallace and Kristi Nakata with Minidoka park rangers Emily Teraoka, Sam Bowlin and Kurt Ikeda.
While on site at Heart Mountain, Densho staffers were able to connect with some old and new friends visiting from the Minidoka National Historic Site. Left to right: Emily Teraoka, Caitlin Oiye Coon, Nina Wallace, Sam Bowlin, Kristi Nakata, and Kurt Ikeda.

Thank you to the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation for hosting this incredible pilgrimage, and to all of our fellow attendees for sharing this powerful experience with us!