Aug 20, 2011 9:18 PM by Drew Trafton

Heart Mountain officially opens learning center

HEART MOUNTAIN, WY- The Taiko drumming inside the tent at the dedication ceremony of the new Heart Mountain Interpretive Learning Center closely resembled the rest of the festivities of the day at the site of the old internment camp: lively, heartfelt and resounding.

The event was strongly attended, many of the crowd having a connection to the World War II internment camp, with some having been interred at the camp as children.

Many of the former interned took roles on it the ceremony.

Two of the original Heart Mountain Boy Scouts of America helped current scouts raise the flag at the center, and one man, Takashi Hoshizaki, currently serves on the board of directors for the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation.

Hoshizaki also holds the distinction of being the youngest of "The 63 Resisters", a group which declined to serve in the U.S. Army after they were drafted because they and their families were being held prisoner in their home country.

The group was found guilty of civil disobedience, many serving time in federal prison for standing their ground.
Hoshizaki says he hopes the interpretive center teaches future generations to avoid the terrible mistakes of the past.

But even when the 63 young men were on trial, Hoshizaki says he had hoped the images captured would serve a higher purpose.

"There is a picture of the 63 that was taken in Cheyenne, where we had our trial. And I don't know why, I was sitting in the back row and the photographer was getting ready," said Hoshizaki. "And it flashed through my mind that, maybe 50 years from now, this picture might be very important."

A few other boy scouts, albeit 60-some-odd-years removed from their scouting days, making an impression on those gathered at the opening were former U.S. Senator Al Simpson and former Congressman/cabinet member Norman Mineta.

The two famously met at the internment camp, where Mineta lived, during a Boy Scout jamboree.

Their friendship, which they described at the ceremony as "man love", was on full display as they introduced the keynote speaker of the ceremony, Hawaii's senior U.S. Senator and World War II war hero, Daniel Inouye.

"I equate him with Nelson Mandela," said Simpson of Mineta. "(Mandela) was imprisoned by his own people, at least of his own country, and came out of there without a shred of bitterness."

Likewise, Mineta praised Simpson for measuring people only "from the neck up."

Mineta also recalled his time as the Secretary of Transportation during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

During the days, and months following attack, Mineta says the White House was extremely concerned about Americans targeting Muslim Americans much like the Japanese Americans were targeted during World War II.

After the speeches, the focus of the ceremony shifted to a ribbon cutting ceremony where barbed wire was cut by many who made the center possible (If you'd like to see footage from inside the center watch the video above).

Those who were interned at the camp were allowed to walk through the center first.

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