The Heart Mountain Pilgrimage is an annual reunion for Japanese Americans who were imprisoned at Heart Mountain, a WWII incarceration camp in Wyoming, and their families. "I haven’t been back here since we used to live here," a woman named Esther Abe told me, as we got off a bus together outside the museum that now stands on the grounds. "Something happened that I didn't expect. I saw that Heart Mountain, and I kind of choked up."
The people at this gathering who once lived here are now in their 80s and 90s, but they were young children during their time at Heart Mountain. "It sounds idiotic, but as a kid, there was no fear," another former incarceree Shig Yabu told me. "We didn't think about all the barbed wires. We wanted excitement."
I heard about a range of emotional experiences when I talked with the descendants of former incarcerees—including anger. "I have been angry and I probably still am," said Shirley Ann Higuchi, whose parents were both imprisoned at Heart Mountain. Shirley told me how she learned new details about her mother's experience at Heart Mountain after she died in 2005. "I think the Japanese culture is very complicated. I think there's sort of something there where you need permission to speak, or need permission to talk out on things," she told me. "I think in reality [my mother] was angrier than I was, but she just suppressed it and managed it differently."