witness- heart mountainRafu Staff Report

The Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation will present two events on Saturday, Feb. 22, at the Japanese American National Museum, 100 N. Central Ave. in Little Tokyo.

At a town hall meeting from 4 to 5:30 p.m. in the George and Sakaye Aratani Central Hall, the HMWF leadership will speak and take questions from the community.

Meet Executive Director Brian Liesinger and enjoy mochi donated by Fugetsu-Do. Vice Chair Doug Nelson will give a tribute to Nancy Araki, JANM’s former director of community affairs and HMWF Advisory Council member, for her steadfast support.

The premiere of an extended version of “Witness: The Legacy of Heart Mountain” by KABC news anchor David Ono and producer Jeff MacIntyre will take place from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Tateuchi Democracy Forum.

Ono, whose documentary aired on Channel 7, said that he has since added chapters and “made it a little bit more weighty.”

One new chapter is about the childhood friendship between Norman Mineta and Alan Simpson, both Boy Scouts. Mineta was interned at Heart Mountain and Simpson lived in a nearby town. Their bond proved important to the redress movement, when Mineta was a Democratic member of the House and Simpson was a Republican member of the Senate.

Ono also covers the Nisei soldiers of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (the subject of two of his previous documentaries) and the Heart Mountain draft resisters, who refused to join the Army until their constitutional rights were restored.

The expanded version also includes the story of Heart Mountain internee Stanley Hayami, a promising young artist and writer whose life was tragically cut short while serving in Europe with the 442nd.

Noting that the documentary probably won’t air until May (Asian Pacific American Heritage Month), Ono said the screening is an opportunity “for folks in the Little Tokyo community to take a look at this, see a complete version it … There are a lot of folks from Heart Mountain that will be there.”

After the screening, Ono will moderate a panel discussion featuring HMWF Chair Shirley Ann Higuchi, a daughter of former Heart Mountain internees; JANM President and CEO Dr. Greg Kimura; Patti Hirahara, whose grandfather George and father Frank took thousands of photos at Heart Mountain; HMWF Advisory Council member and former internee Toshi Ito, mother of Judge Lance Ito; and Darrell Kunitomi, whose father was interned at Heart Mountain.

Ono said of Judge Ito, who is also featured in the documentary, “His family has a remarkable story. He’s testament of how they’ve recovered and even thrived in their lives after the war, but there’s also a really tragic part of the Ito family’s story and he talks about it.”

A reception will follow. Suggested donation for the film and reception is $15. To attend, RSVP to events@heartmountain.org.

Docent-led tours are available during the day at JANM. For groups of 10 or more, visit www.janm.org/visit/groups.

In August 2011, the HMWF opened the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center, a museum dedicated to passing on the camp’s story to future generations. Through photographs, artifacts, oral histories, the interactive exhibits, visitors experience life at Heart Mountain through the eyes of those who were confined there.

The center provides an overview that includes the background history of anti-Asian prejudice in America and the factors leading to the enforced relocation and confinement of Japanese Americans. Special emphasis is given to the experience of incarceration, the diverse personal responses of Japanese Americans to their imprisonment, constitutional issues, and the broader issues of race and social justice in America.

The center is located at 1539 Road 19, Powell, WY 82435. Winter hours (until May 31) are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday or by appointment. For more information, call (307) 754-8000, email info@heartmountain.org or visit http://heartmountain.org.

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