Annual Amache Pilgrimage – May 16, 2020
To our Friends and Supporters:
We have been closely monitoring developments of the COVID-19 situation, and the latest projection is that coronavirus infections in the United States will peak in late April. Even if a best-case scenario, large-scale closures beyond April will nevertheless likely continue. Colorado Governor Polis has closed schools until at least the middle of April, with the possibility of extending closures for the remainder of the school year.
The health and safety of everyone for the duration of this crisis is of paramount importance, and canceling the 2020 Pilgrimage and Amache Museum grand opening – while regrettable – is the socially responsible and prudent choice.
We hope you and your families stay well and safe, and take this opportunity to express our heartfelt gratitude and thanks for your hard work and support. We look forward to reuniting with you as an even stronger community on the other side.
Minoru Tagawa, Vice President Nikkeijin Kai of Colorado, aka Japanese American Association of Colorado
John Hopper, President Amache Preservation Society
E Vicki Taniwaki Friends of Amache
Pilgrimages to former WWII concentration camps for those of Japanese descent were started in the late 1960s. It took nearly a quarter century for former prisoners and their descendants to question why they had been imprisoned and begin searching for answers.
The first formal pilgrimage to Amache in 1975 was organized by Marge Taniwaki and Russell Endo, along with members of the Community Action Research Program and students from the University of Colorado at Boulder. The pilgrimage was funded by a grant from the state of Colorado, and it was one of the official 1975-1976 events commemorating the centennial of Colorado’s statehood. The Denver Central Optimists Club (now the Amache Club) took over the Pilgrimage organizing in 1983 and erected a second cemetery monument to US military casualties from Amache. The first stone monument was left by prisoners as they departed Amache in late 1945. In conjunction with Granada High School teacher John Hopper and his students, the cemetery site has been transformed with trees and grass watered by a drip-irrigation system, creating an oasis in the arid countryside.
The annual Amache Pilgrimage typically takes place on the Saturday before Memorial Day weekend. Two bus pick-up points are available. The first pick-up boards at 6:00AM at Simpson United Methodist Church, 6001 Wolff Street, Arvada 80003; the second pick-up is 6:30AM at downtown Denver’s Tri-State Buddhist Temple, 1947 Lawrence Street, Denver 80202. Attendees are encouraged to board at Simpson where parking is more plentiful. Snacks are provided and continuous educational programs run on overhead bus screens on the restroom equipped vehicle. There is time to share conversation with other passengers, some of whom were forcibly removed to Amache or to one of the nine other major US concentration camps. After a short rest stop in Limon, the bus arrives at the Amache cemetery at approximately 11:00AM for a brief memorial service and oshoko (offering of incense) to commemorate those who died while imprisoned there or while serving in the US military. Attendees then meet at Granada Undivided School, where lunch and a short program are provided, and the bus re-boards by 2:30 for the return trip to Denver; passengers are dropped off in reverse order of the morning, and can expect to arrive back at Simpson by 6:30-7:00PM.
For attendees who arrive by private car, there is often a catered dinner/discussion on Saturday night (nominal fee/donation) at the Amache Resource Center near the Amache Museum in the town of Granada. Attendees usually include survivors who share memories of camp. Hotels are available in Lamar, Colorado, 17 miles to the west on Highway 50. On Sunday, pilgrims can visit the Amache site to find their family barracks or visit the Amache Museum. Another option is visiting the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, located 35 miles northwest of Amache, where visitors can learn about the woman for whom the Amache Relocation Center was named and her Cheyenne sub-Chief father, Ochinee, who was killed at Sand Creek in 1864.