WWII-Era Japanese-American Internment Camp Excavated
A World War II-era internment camp near Heart Mountain, Wyoming, is under excavation by archaeologists keen to understand the everyday lives of the Japanese-Americans incarcerated there.
Heart Mountain was one of 12 relocation camps used by the US government, created during the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the wake of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7th, 1941. A stark reminder of institutionalized American xenophobia and racism during WWII, camps like Heart Mountain, which received its first internees in August of 1942, are nevertheless an excellent opportunity to discover how American citizens of Japanese descent lived during their forced internment. Heart Mountain alone held more than 10,000 Japanese – many of which were American citizens – at its most crowded during wartime.
At the Wyoming site of the former internment camp, archaeologists are most interested in excavating the ruins of two massive 300-foot long root cellars, one of which still stands. The other, which collapsed sometime between the end of the war and when the camp site was purchased by the nonprofit historical preservation group the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation in 1996, is of heightened interest. In an interview in the Casper Star-Tribune, Park County Historical Preservation Commission chairman Larry Todd, a retired archaeology professor involved in the excavation efforts; said the archaeological record of activity at the camp may be much better preserved in the collapsed root cellar, as the structure that still stands today was used by farmers between the end of WWII and when the property was purchased by the foundation.