HomeJapanese AmericanMissourian: Archaeologists Dig for Clues of Heart Mountain's Past

Missourian: Archaeologists Dig for Clues of Heart Mountain’s Past

Heart Mountain
Heart Mountain prisoners work long hours harvesting the center’s huge crop before the heavy frost sets in. The bean thrasher is here shown still at work in the twilight hours.

An old underground cellar used to store vegetables at Heart Mountain, site of an incarceration camp in Wyoming during World War II,   provides a glimpse into the lives of 14,000 Japanese Americans imprisoned there.

The cellar was allowed to collapse, some say purposely, in the 1950’s.

“(It’s) almost like there was an attempt to erase a memory of an unpleasant event,” Larry Todd, a retired archeology professor said.

It sits on a part of Heart Mountain that was sold off after the camp closed, but the land was reacquired by the Heart Mountain Foundation within the past year.

Archeologists spent Friday digging up the site, searching for clues of its past, reported the Missourian.

Many of those imprisoned at Heart Mountain were farmers from California who took what was considered barren land and made it fertile. They were determined to make the best of a bad situation.

The fruits of their labor were so successful, they had a surplus of crops and stored it in what is technically known as a root cellar.

The cellar is unstable and closed to the public, but officials hope to open it in the future.

“We’re trying to get just a real general idea of what might be in the old collapsed structure,” said Todd who is now the chairman of the Park County Historical Preservation Commission.

About 100 volunteers showed up to help with the dig. Among them was Lenea Luna whose great grandfather was among those inprisoned there.

Luna says many of her friends aren’t even aware the camp exists.

“It was really interesting to see, just the portrayal of it,” she said. “(In school), they touch on it a little bit, but not much.”

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