Skip to main content
Digital storytelling workshop instructor Jeff MacIntyre works with National Japanese American Memorial Scholarship Student Reed Leventis on his short film at the 2016 Heart Mountain Pilgrimage.

The annual pilgrimage is set for July 27-30.

By Helen Yoshida, Contributor

Seventy-five years after Executive Order 9066 sent more than 120,000 Japanese Americans and their families to 10 camps around the United States, the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation will conduct its most ambitious pilgrimage for returnees, their families and the public in July.

More than 14,000 Issei and Nisei were sent to Heart Mountain, then a desolate patch of prairie between Cody and Powell, Wyo., after the order was signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on Feb. 19, 1942.

After losing their homes and livelihoods, they tried to rebuild their lives inside the barbed wire by creating art, starting a newspaper or creating gardens in the dusty soil.

This year’s pilgrimage, set for July 27-30, will feature the work of two artists who were inspired by the incarceration and Heart Mountain. Roger Shimomura, a nationally recognized artist who spent two years at the Minidoka War Relocation Center in Idaho, will exhibit his work for the pilgrimage’s grand opening. Bacon Sakatani, a Heart Mountain internee, has been invited to talk about Estelle Ishigo, a Caucasian woman who joined her Nisei husband at Heart Mountain though she could have remained free. Her drawings and paintings from the camp captured the essence of the incarceration experience.

Shimomura’s work is the subject of a new documentary by Emmy award-winning filmmakers Jeff MacIntyre and David Ono, whose “Legacy of Heart Mountain” documentary was a tremendous success. They will close Friday’s pilgrimage events with a showing of their new film and a silent auction at the Cody Holiday Inn on July 28. After the screening, Shimomura, MacIntyre and Ono will participate in a panel in which Shimomura will discuss his art and Japanese American identity in the 21st century.

Ono and MacIntyre will also lead a Spoken Word/Video Workshop on the World War II Japanese American incarceration experience with National Poetry Slam Champion G Yamazawa. Spoken Word is poetry that is written to be performed, but this unique workshop welcomes anyone — including the public and multigenerational families — interested in this history who enjoys the performing arts or who has a compelling story to tell.

On July 26, they’ll give participants an overview of this process during an orientation dinner with instructors and participants. The next day, G will work with participants to compose their own spoken word poem, and Ono and MacIntyre will teach participants how to transform their work into a short video using photographs, drawings, music and narration on July 27 and 28.

Participants interested in only creating the short digital stories are welcome to do so or partner with those crafting a spoken word poem. On July 29, participants will be able to perform their poems during a cultural and entertainment session, after which the films will be broadcast across social media.

Registration for this workshop will be $75, and high school and college students can apply for two scholarships of up to $1,000 each to attend. The scholarships will cover travel and hotel costs, registration for the workshop and registration costs (which includes prepaid meals during the pilgrimage).

Ten slots will be available for this program, and student scholarship applications will be reviewed by MacIntyre and HMWF Chair Shirley Ann Higuchi. Interested students can email for an application. In addition, organizations and individuals can help sponsor a student to participate in this workshop for $150.

For more information please visit

Other events include the following:

  • A multigenerational discussion and two educational sessions at the Park County Library/Northwest College Cody Center on July 28. Leading one educational session is Sam Mihara, a Heart Mountain board member, who will present “Memories of Five Nisei.” Bacon Sakatani has been invited to present the second session on the life of Estelle Ishigo.
  • A performance by G Yamazawa on July 28.
  • Keynote speeches by former Commerce and Transportation Sec. Norman Mineta, a Heart Mountain internee, and former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) These two longtime friends met while Mineta was interned at Heart Mountain.
  • A Heart Mountain hike on July 30.

Pilgrimage registration will open on Feb. 10. For more information, visit