Amache Rose that once bore witness is blooming
Shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 prompting the relocation of West Coast residents of Japanese descent to camps, including one near Granada, Colo., known as Amache. Many of the people interred were American citizens and many worked in agriculture and horticulture on California’s coast and Central Valley.
A rose in Colorado’s former Japanese Internment Camp that bore witness to that portion of the state’s history is making history now, 80 years later. The Amache rose’s foliage is bright green and the bloom, no larger than a pinky fingernail, is a cheerful pink. The bloom was discovered the day of the annual pilgrimage to the site of the former Granada Relocation Center, during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and shortly after the site was added to the list of National Parks.
Dr. Bonnie Clark, a professor of Archaeology at the University of Denver has studied the gardens and gardeners of Amache for about 15 years. The project has involved, among others, archaeobotany, archeological pollen and phytoliths, digital mapping, and countless hot days spent on site. It is one of the nation’s newest National Parks, though John Hopper and his students at Granada High School have long cared for the site, guided tours, spoke about the site’s history, and maintained the museum.
The rose, according to Clark, is growing in a sea of yucca, prickly pear, and rabbit brush, about three miles from the Arkansas River on a stabilized sand dune. Discovered by research survey crews in 2012, she said it was most certainly brought to Amache by someone detained there, as the site was bulldozed by the War Relocation Authority prior to the construction of the camp. Clark said the bloom could be the result of recent rains or it could be the result of the pruning it received when cuttings were taken.
The rose bush is located near the base of a barracks building, climbing across a doorway. Clippings from the plant were taken last fall by staff at the Denver Botanic Gardens, and carefully transported back to the greenhouse in Denver to be propagated, though none have bloomed yet.
Clark said the National Park Service will make a determination about the future of the Amache rose. Where it is currently rambling across a doorway is not its historic location as it would have been more likely planted in the narrow beds near the barracks.
After the annual pilgrimage to the site and a visit to the cemetery, Clark and a small group from the National Park Service, Denver Botanic Gardens, Granada mayor Argie Thrall, and Amache Alliance leader Mitch Homma, an Amache descendent, visited the rose bush. It was not the carefully managed cuttings at Denver Botanic Gardens that bloomed, but the original plant.
She sent a photo to Carlene Tanagoshi Tinker, an Amache survivor who has volunteered during each summer on site. Clark said Tanagoshi Tinker was young when the war ended and Amache closed, so her memories are limited, and her parents didn’t speak of those years. Working at the site, though, has helped her piece together that time in her life. At her home in California, Tanagoshi Tinker cherishes two potted cuttings from the plant, gifted to her after they were collected. John Hopper was also given cuttings, which will be a part of the Amache Museum. Botanists at the gardens are currently propagating second generation Amache roses from cuttings, ensuring plenty of cuttings.
Clark’s team has unearthed evidence of cottonwood trees dug by the river and transplanted to the camp, the planting hole amended with materials at hand. The victory gardens and produce gardens were determined to have been amended with fish meal and crushed eggshells. A hill and pond garden like those common in Japanese garden design was constructed and maintained in one block, flanked by large round river cobble rock and surrounded by a neat wooden fence. The figure eight shaped pond featured a curved wooden bridge. Clark’s team used photos taken by internee and amateur photographer Jack Muro, as well as existing landmarks, ground penetrating radar images, and excavation to determine the historic details of the area.
In Clark’s Finding Solace in the Soil, she said interned school children grew large victory gardens enthusiastically, sharing their bounty with the community and the war effort. The Amache Agricultural Fair was featured in a 1943 issue of the Granada Pioneer. One display of the victory gardens’ bounty is an American flag display made from vegetables grown in just such a garden.
Many of the internees helped area farmers bring in sugar beet crops and shared their knowledge, Clark said, about raising crops unfamiliar to southeastern Colorado farmers, like celery. The produce grown at the camp fed the some 7,000 interred there and the balance went to the war effort.
Bromegrass is headed out and native meadows are beginning to grow rapidly with warmer temperatures the past couple weeks. Is now the time to make grass hay?
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