More than the pilgrimage

AMACHE MUSEUM — Inside the Amache Museum, run by John Hopper and the Granada School’s Amache Preservation Society. photo by Gil Asakawa

A visit to the Amache National Historic Site needs to include a must-see stop at the Amache Museum, which John Hopper and the students at the Granada School’s Amache Preservation Society founded in 1992.

Hopper has been an administrator at the school and served on the town’s council, so he was able to muster support from town leaders for his Amache activities.

In the 1990s, a building was donated for the students to use as a museum for artifacts they’ve collected from Amache survivors. For years, the small space was a repository that looked like a yard sale had exploded in grandma’s attic, with items and display cases crowded together, and students taking the time to share their knowledge with visitors.

But a couple of years ago, a bank that was just next door to the original museum moved its location and donated its space (and its parking lot) to the Amache Preservation Society. It now feels like a proper museum, with thematic sections including a fascinating look at the work of artists who lived in the camp.

And this year, to mark the first time the camp is an official historic site, the National Park Service held a special May 17 ribbon-cutting ceremony with speeches from NPS officials and lawmakers such as Democrat Sen. Michael Bennet, former Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, who along with Bennet and Republican Rep. Ken Buck introduced a bill in 2018 that put Amache on the road to parkhood.

Also on hand was former California Democratic Rep. Mike Honda of San Jose, who was imprisoned in Amache as a child.

And, to round out an inspirational weekend of activities, the NPS hosted a visit for pilgrimage attendees on May 19 at the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site a half-hour north, surrounded by a vast plain of cattle ranches, where U.S. Cavalry slaughtered and mutilated hundreds of indigenous Cheyenne and Arapaho — mostly women, children and elderly.

Two Native leaders, Greg Spotted-Bird Lamebull of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, and Otto Braided Hair of the Northern Cheyenne in Montana, spoke and educated the rapt attendees with the history and the horrors of the massacre.

INTER-CULTURAL EXCHANGE — A day after the Amache Pilgrimage, attendees traveled to the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site to learn about the massacre by tribe elders (pictured). photo by Gil Asakawa

Native speakers were also on hand at the Amache ribbon cutting on May 17 and at the pilgrimage Saturday as well, and all three days the story was told about how the “Granada Relocation Center” came to be called Amache: Because the postal service needed the camp to have a different name from the town next to it, the name that came to be used was Amache, whose full name was Amache Ochinee Prowers.

She married prominent cattle rancher and trader John Prowers (Prowers County where Granada is located, is named after him) in 1861, and worked to build relationships between the Native Americans and whites, even after her father, Lone Bear, a Cheyenne Chief, was murdered at Sand Creek.

So the thread of injustice ties together both the indigenous and Japanese American communities in southeast Colorado, and so does the thread of connections between the communities. The trip to Sand Creek will become a regular part of the annual Amache pilgrimage.

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