Professor’s work at internment camp rewarded as Amache designated a National Historic Site

Amache, a World War II internment camp that incarcerated over 10,000 Americans of Japanese descent, has been designated a National Historic Site within the National Park Service. 

President Joe Biden signed the Amache National Historic Site Act into law in March, thanks in large part to the work of DU’s own Bonnie Clark. This move means greater protections for the historically important site and the resources needed to maintain Amache. 

Clark, a professor of anthropology, began researching Amache just before the site received state-protected status as a historic landmark in 2005. At the time, the camp remained in its postwar state of de-constructed housing and living facilities. In the years since then, Clark and her team of archaeologists, many of them students, have discovered much more lying just below the surface.

Amache is one of several internment camps in the U.S., which Clark calls “a reminder of what happens when a nation forgets its values.” Torn from their homes and livelihoods, Japanese Americans along the West Coast were forcibly moved to and kept at these relocation camps.

Over the years, Clark’s work at Amache revealed that it contained a productive, beautiful garden community created from the minimal resources then at hand. These are the subject of her recent book, “Finding Solace in the Soil: An Archaeology of Gardens and Gardeners at Amache” (University Press of Colorado, 2020).

Clark’s fascination with Amache’s gardens was rewarded over the summer, when a rose bush planted by an Amache resident experienced its first bloom in nearly 80 years. Up until the bloom, there was no way of knowing what color the buds, a vibrant pink, would be.

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