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Efforts to preserve history of internment camp recognized by lawmakers

SHARE Efforts to preserve history of internment camp recognized by lawmakers

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Legislature passed a resolution Tuesday honoring the efforts of the Topaz Museum and Education Center in Delta to preserve the history of the area's Japanese-American internment camp during World War II.

"Today is a good day and a celebration," the sponsor of SCR10, Senate Minority Caucus Manager Jani Iwamoto, D-Holladay, said of recognizing the achievements of the Topaz Museum board and its founder and current president, Jane Beckwith.

Iwamoto said the museum that opened last year is a place "where people can learn valuable lessons related to civil rights" and honor those interned with the "promise this cannot and will not happen again to anyone."

She said the federal government's decision to intern Americans based on their race was "a dark chapter" in history, just as it was with other groups, including members of the LDS Church who were driven out of Missouri in the 1840s.

More than 11,000 people were incarcerated at Topaz from Sept. 11, 1942, until Oct. 31, 1945. The site was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2007 by the U.S. secretary of the interior.

The museum board was established in 1996 and "has purchased 633 acres of the original site of the Topaz Relocation Center, conducted teacher workshops, held pilgrimages and raised awareness of the history of Topaz."

Some $3 million has been raised for the center, including $300,000 from the state and $1.2 million from the National Park Service through the Japanese American Confinement Sites grant program.

Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, said she took her children to visit the museum and the Topaz site.

"It's hard to believe something like this happened in our state," Henderson said, calling it "really heartbreaking to see."

The resolution passed the Senate unanimously and later was approved by the House, 69-1. It now goes to Gov. Gary Herbert for his action.