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Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation Executive Director to Step Down

By June 3, 2022June 18th, 2022No Comments

POWELL, Wyo. — Dakota Russell, executive director of the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation, recently left his position May 31 to assume the leadership of the House of the Seven Gables Settlement Association in Salem, Mass.

Aura Sunada Newlin, secretary of the HMWF’s board of directors and descendant of Heart Mountain incarcerees, will take the helm as interim executive director.

Russell joined Heart Mountain in 2016 as museum manager and became executive director in 2018. He has led the foundation’s restoration of the original 1942 barrack and 1943 root cellar, as well as expanded its national and international outreach activities.

Outgoing Executive Director Dakota Russell, left, and New Interim Executive Director Aura Sunada Newlin (Photos: Ted Brummond/UW Photo Services and Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation)

He has also made significant progress in its capital campaign to build the Mineta-Simpson Institute at Heart Mountain, which will host workshops and create programming designed to use the lessons of the past to build a better future. Groundbreaking for the new wing will take place July 30 at the annual Heart Mountain Pilgrimage.

Russell leaves the HMWF in a position of strength. “It is bittersweet to be leaving,” Russell said, “but I am proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish in my time here. Heart Mountain is now a national leader in educating about the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, and telling that story is more important than ever.”

Newlin, a HMWF board member since 2013, is a Wyoming native and teacher of Asian American studies at the University of Wyoming. She was previously a tenured faculty member in anthropology and sociology at Northwest College and is a longstanding board member of the National Consortium on Racial & Ethnic Fairness in the Courts.

Newlin said she is resolute in her commitment to Heart Mountain’s continued success. “I take this responsibility seriously and will do what it takes to advance the Foundation’s mission,” she said.

“I’m forever in Dakota’s debt for his multifaceted contribution to our foundation and museum, and we are thrilled that Aura is taking on this post with her considerable accomplishments,” said Shirley Ann Higuchi, chair of the HMWF board.

Douglas Nelson, vice chair of the HMWF board, said Russell made “huge contributions to building our future, and we’re grateful for Aura agreeing to step in. She’ll do a wonderful job.”

The Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation preserves the historic site where some 14,000 Japanese Americans were unjustly incarcerated from 1942-45. The stories of those incarcerees are told within the HMWF’s museum, Heart Mountain Interpretive Center, located between Cody and Powell.

For more information, call the interpretive center at (307) 754-8000 or email