Setsuko's Secret

Presented by Center for the Arts and Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation

Setsuko's Secret
The Center Theater
August 25 | 6:30 pm

Don't miss an exciting conversation about the new book Setsuko’s Secret: Heart Mountain and the Legacy of the Japanese American Incarceration. Author Shirley Ann Higuchi, J.D., chair of the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation, will share her transformational journey into uncovering her family’s history and learning about the Japanese American incarceration during World War II. Higuchi will be joined by Cody lifelong resident Peter K. Simpson and former incarceree, Sam Mihara, who will share their own firsthand remembrances of the Heart Mountain camp which are included in the book. Doug Nelson, vice chair of the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation and Dakota Russell, Executive Director, will join them for closing remarks.

As children, Shirley Ann Higuchi and her brothers knew Heart Mountain only as the place their parents met, imagining it as a great Stardust Ballroom in rural Wyoming. As they grew older, they would come to recognize the name as a source of great sadness and shame for their older family members, part of the generation of Japanese Americans forced into the hastily built concentration camp in the aftermath of Executive Order 9066 signed by President Roosevelt on February 19, 1942.
 Only after a serious cancer diagnosis did Shirley's mother, Setsuko, share her vision for a museum at the site of the former camp, where she had been donating funds and volunteering in secret for many years. After Setsuko's death, Shirley skeptically accepted an invitation to visit the site, a journey that would forever change her life and introduce her to a part of her mother she never knew.
 Navigating the complicated terrain of the Japanese American experience, Shirley patched together Setsuko's story and came to understand the forces and generational trauma that shaped her own life. Moving seamlessly between family and communal history, Setsuko's Secret offers a clear window into the "camp life" that was rarely revealed to the children of the incarcerated. This volume powerfully insists that we reckon with the pain in our collective American past to face the future.

Order your copy online here. Books will also be available for in-person purchase, Shirley Ann Higuchi will be available to sign copies.  




You may also view the FREE live stream on this page, the night of the event. Donations can be made here, in support of the live stream. 


Author, Shirley Ann Higuchi, JD, Chair of the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation (HMWF), is the daughter of former incarcerees Dr. William I. Higuchi and the late Setsuko Saito Higuchi. Her U.S.-born parents were children when they were incarcerated at Heart Mountain during World War II. Shirley’s pursuit of law stemmed from her feelings of discomfort toward how the U.S. judicial system treated her parents. It was not until her mother was on her deathbed in 2005 that Shirley learned of her mother’s dream of “having something built” at Heart Mountain. She was elected Chair of the Board in 2009 and her proudest moment was unveiling the Foundation’s world-class Interpretive Center in August 2011 with journalist Tom Brokaw, the late Senator Daniel K. Inouye, Secretary Norman Mineta and Senator Alan K. Simpson at the Cody/Powell, Wyoming site.


Shirley currently leads the legal advocacy office of the American Psychological Association. Active in the District of Columbia Bar, Shirley served two elected terms on the Board of Governors from 1994 to 2000, served as Chair of the Bar’s Nominations Committee in 2001, and was elected President of the Bar for 2003. In 2014, Shirley was appointed to the Federal Law Enforcement Nominating Commission by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC). Follow her on Twitter @HiguchiJD.


Peter K. Simpson

Pete grew up in the shadow of Heart Mountain in nearby Cody, Wyoming, and visited the camp as a Boy Scout for jamborees with the incarcerated Japanese American scouts. Pete is an adjunct professor and the Milward Simpson Professor of Political Science at the University of Wyoming. He began his career as a college administrator. While serving as dean of instruction at Sheridan College, he was elected to the Wyoming State Legislature. In 1984, he became vice president for development and executive director of the University of Wyoming Foundation and later served as vice president for Institutional Advancement. He is the brother of U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson (retired) and son of former Wyoming governor and U.S. senator Milward Simpson. Pete’s commitment to Heart Mountain is deeply rooted in the experiences of him and his family during the war and their friendship with many of the former incarcerees and their families.


Sam Mihara

Sam is a second-generation Japanese American who was born and raised in San Francisco. He and his family were incarcerated at Heart Mountain, where his grandfather died because of poor medical care and his father went blind because of the harsh conditions. After the war ended, the family returned to San Francisco. Sam attended Lick Wilmerding High School, UC Berkeley and UCLA, where he obtained graduate degrees in engineering. He became a rocket scientist and executive with The Boeing Company. Following retirement from Boeing, Sam created his own high-tech consulting firm and with clients around the world. Sam is one of the few survivors of the Japanese American imprisonment who actively speaks about his experiences in engagements around the country to schools, colleges, attorney groups and other interested organizations. His presentations document how he and his family were forced out of their home by soldiers, moved to the guarded camp where they lived and suffered throughout the war, and finally released to return home after the war ended. In 2018, he received the National Council of History Education’s Paul A. Gagnon Prize for his teaching of the Japanese American incarceration and its lessons for today.


Doug Nelson

Douglas made his first trip to Wyoming in 1968 as a graduate student at the University of Wyoming. That’s when he first learned about the concentration camp at Heart Mountain, which became the topic of his master’s thesis. The thesis became a book – Heart Mountain: The History of an American Concentration Camp – and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Doug is the retired president and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which for more than 20 years he transformed from a philanthropic organization to one of the nation’s most influential and respected large foundations. In 2010, President Jimmy Carter commended his leadership, saying that “his service to our most disinvested and disenfranchised populations and to the overall betterment of America’s philanthropic missions has been extraordinary and all too rare.” Among many other roles, Doug serves as chair of the CDC Foundation in Atlanta, Georgia; and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Carter Center. He is former chair of Living Cities: The National Community Development Initiative and former vice chair of the Board of Trustees of the Foundation Center in New York City. Doug is also one of the creative forces behind the new Heart Mountain Institute, which is developing content to spread the word of the incarceration beyond the confines of the former camp site.


Dakota Russell

Dakota Russell is Executive Director of the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation. Previously, Russell spent fifteen years with Missouri State Parks and Historic Sites, where his work in interpretation and cultural resource management took him everywhere from Native American village sites to frontier homesteads to Civil War battlefields. Russell believes that history benefits from a plurality of voices, and throughout his career has worked to ensure that diverse viewpoints and the stories of marginalized groups are better represented on the cultural landscape.