The month of May is a time to celebrate the history, traditions, cultures, and contributions of all Asian American and Pacific Islander immigrants and citizens in the United States. This month was chosen because it commemorates the immigration of the first Japanese people to the U.S. on May 7, 1843. Also significant is that on May 10, 1869, the transcontinental railroad was completed, a feat that would not have been possible without the work of hundreds of Chinese laborers.
Here I’d like to highlight collections pertaining to one of the most memorable historical periods in the state of Wyoming—the incarceration of Japanese Americans at Heart Mountain Relocation Center during World War II.
Heart Mountain was located in northern Wyoming between Powell and Cody. Many of the collections highlighted in this post document internee’s experiences and shed a light on the reality of Japanese internment. The first I’d like to feature is the Estelle Ishigo sketches, which were gathered for use in her book Lone Heart Mountain; many of them were published there originally. The original drawings were created by Estelle while she was interned at the camp for nearly four years with her Nisei husband Arthur Ishigo. This sketch, “Boys rescuing kite from barbed wire,” captures the irony of two boys innocent play at the edge of their prison enclosure.
Bill Manbo’s papers include color slides of scenes from Heart Mountain. As a teenager, Bill Manbo Sr. was a Japanese American internee there. He surreptitiously took photographs of everyday life and events in the camp, including children at play, events, and camp buildings. Pictured here is a color photo Bill took of internees ice skating. To ease the monotony of life at Heart Mountain, those incarcerated found means of entertainment as they could.
The Heart Mountain Relocation Center was one of ten camps mandated by the War Department in 1942 to detain Americans of Japanese ancestry, after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The first internees arrived in August of 1942, and many remained until the camp closed in November of 1945. The Heart Mountain Relocation Center Records at the AHC contain the Heart Mountain charter, community minutes, notes on resettlement plans, transcripts of a trial, and more. Depicted below is a news digest in Japanese that can be found in the collection. Also shown is a document that lays out the different “committees” that governed daily life at Heart Mountain.
See our joint research guide with the University of Wyoming Libraries to discover more AHC resources on Heart Mountain and AAPI history. Some of our collections are available for browsing on our digital collection platform. Have questions about the collections showcased here? Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Post contributed by AHC Archives Intern Brittany Heye.