History & Culture

Black and white photograph of a group of Japanese Americans standing in front of a barrack structure.
Amache Community Council, 1943.

National Archives

The smallest incarceration site by population—the Granada Relocation Center, as it was designated by the War Relocation Authority—was in Colorado, only 15 miles west of the Kansas border and less than 2 miles from the town of Granada. Although all WRA records refer to the incarceration camp as the Granada Relocation Center, early on, incarcerees began referring to the camp as Amache, after the camp’s postal designation. Because the camp and town were so close, it was feared that mail intended for the Granada Relocation Center would get confused with mail for the town of Granada. The postal designation of Amache was named after Amache Ochinee Prowers, an outspoken Southern Cheyenne woman who married the county’s namesake John Prowers. She was also the daughter of Chief Ochinee, a traditional Cheyenne leader, who was murdered during the Sand Creek Massacre. The connection between the incarceration camp and the tribe goes beyond a name; the land on which the camp was situated was once part of unceded Southern Cheyenne treaty lands.

Built to accommodate up to 8,000 people, Amache housed 7,318 incarcerees at its peak in 1943, making it the 10th largest city in Colorado at that time. During its three years of operation, 10,331 incarcerees passed through Amache. Its population often fluctuated due to work, education, and military leave programs, as well as indefinite leaves as part of the resettlement program.

Amache is in the High Plains, a subregion of the Great Plains, characterized by high elevation, steady winds, and a semiarid climate. Temperatures and conditions can be extreme in this region, with hot and dry summers that include occasional thunderstorms and tornadoes, as well as cold and snowy winters. The Arkansas River runs to the east a few miles north of Amache, providing irrigation for agriculture, which was and still is, the region’s main industry.

Before World War II, the nearby town of Granada was a small farming town, with a population of 342 in 1940. Although small, Granada had been situated along an important transportation corridor since its founding as a railroad town in the late 1880s, serving the Atchinson, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway. By the 1930s, US Highway 50 carved its way through town as it bisected the country from coast to coast. Granada was one of many rural, agricultural towns that dotted the Colorado section of this transcontinental route.

Like most of the other incarceration camps, Amache was located in a rural, isolated area far from any urban centers. The War Relocation Authority required that the relocation centers be built on federal or other public lands. While the construction of the other sites met this criterion, Amache was the only incarceration center to be primarily built on private land that the government either purchased or took by condemnation. The 10,500 acres that comprised the project area were acquired by the government from 18 farms and ranches.
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    Last updated: March 22, 2024

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    Amache National Historic Site
    PO Box 44

    Granada, CO 81041

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