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South Valley Riverton Journal

Riverton teacher selected to participate in Echoes of History workshop

Jun 06, 2023 09:06AM ● By Morgan Olsen

Rachel Van Orden, a teacher at Rosamond Elementary in Riverton, has been accepted to participate in the Echoes of History: Mistreatment and Incarceration in the American West workshop this summer. She was given a $1,300 stipend to cover travel expenses in order to attend the workshop and was one of 72 selected out of more than 175 applicants to participate in the program this summer.

“The workshop will teach educators about the mistreatment of marginalized groups in the American West,” Ray Locker of the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation said. “The focus is primarily on Native Americans, German immigrants during World War I and the 120,000 Japanese Americans, two-thirds of them U.S. citizens, who were incarcerated at Heart Mountain, Wyoming, and nine other camps around the country.”

The weeklong workshop aims to encourage educators to teach history in a way that it’s not likely to be repeated.

“The main goal of the workshop is to encourage teaching about the Japanese American incarceration to ensure that something like it never happens again,” Locker said. “Many of us never learned about this while we were in school. We also want to build a group of ambassadors for this subject and Heart Mountain around the country.”

The Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation was created in 1996 to preserve the site of the World War II concentration camp for Japanese Americans at Heart Mountain, which is between Cody and Powell, Wyoming.

“We operate a museum on the site and are upgrading the few remaining buildings there,” Locker said. “We have expanded our educational offerings, including the NEH-backed teacher workshops and in-person and virtual field trips.”

Locker says they received applications from many who were well-qualified, but Van Orden stood out to them as one who would be a great addition to the program. 

“We look for a number of things in applicants, including familiarity with the topic, the desire to share the knowledge they gain with their colleagues and a passion for learning,” Locker said. “Every applicant we received this year was qualified, which makes the selection process difficult. We want a good mix of educators from big school districts and smaller ones, states with requirements to teach Asian American history and those that have few Asian Americans.”

Van Orden was ultimately chosen to participate in the workshop because of her ability to use what she learns at the workshop to influence her students and make a difference in the community by expounding on the material taught during her week in the program.

“Rachel comes from a state with a growing Asian American population that was home to one of the concentration camps, Topaz,” Locker said. “Utah was also a refuge for Japanese Americans during the war and afterward. Three former Heart Mountain incarcerees who were in the same high school class in camp still live in Salt Lake City -- William Higuchi, Jeanette Misaka and Raymond Uno. Each has received the Order of the Rising Sun from the Japanese government for their work advancing relations between the United States and Japan. All of that means there are multiple resources for Utah teachers to use as they teach this topic. We think Rachel will be a great person to take what she learns at the workshop to a higher level.” λ