Board of Directors
The Amache Alliance is overseen by its Board of Directors led by Mitch Homma and Kirsten Leong, both descendants of Amache incarcerees. The all-volunteer Board and Special Advisors includes descendants, scholars, and other local and national professionals from across the country.
President, Mitch Homma
Mitch Homma is a sansei and works as an aerospace engineer. He is an Amache descendant who had three generations of family incarcerated at the WWII Granada Relocation Center in Colorado. He volunteers with the Amache Historical Society II (AHS II), coordinates their newsletter, and supports several Amache preservation projects. As Vice President of the Board of Managers for the American Baptist Historical Society (ABHS), he has worked on several history related educational and preservation projects. Volunteer ABHS executive committee responsibilities include strategic plan development and professional standards guidelines for intellectual property protection.
Vice President, Dr. Kirsten Leong
Kirsten Leong is a Yonsei and Amache descendant of the Sameshima and Omori families. She is one of the founding members of the Amache Historical Society II, updates the website Amache.org, and distributes newsletters. Kirsten was instrumental in spearheading the Amache Virtual Pilgrimage program. Kirsten has volunteered for the DU Field School and represented the Amache organizations in the Japanese American Confinement Sites Consortium. In her day job, she is a social scientist for NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center in Honolulu, Hawai‘i and is a member of the Hawai‘i and Pacific Islands Regional Network of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Kirsten's past work experience includes working for the National Park Service in Fort Collins, CO.
Secretary, Dana Ogo Shew
Dana Ogo Shew serves as a Staff Archaeologist, Oral Historian, and Interpretive Specialist at the Anthropological Studies Center at Sonoma State University in California. She specializes in projects that research, preserve, and share stories about the Japanese American experience, especially those related to WWII Japanese American incarceration. She earned a MA in archaeology from the University of Denver where she researched the lives of women at Amache. Dana has family ties to Topaz War Relocation Center, where she has done informal archaeological surveys and will be conducting formal archaeological investigations this summer. She is working on updating the Amache Interpretive Plan and supports AHS II on many projects.
Treasurer, Stephanie Stone
Stephanie Stone is a retired software/systems engineer. As a software developer, project lead, database architect, and systems interface manager, her projects led to national intelligence advancements. Her technology and finance skills have been utilized on several non-profit projects. She grew up in the southeast and was not taught anything about the WWII Japanese American experience. She has been involved with the Amache community since 2008 and visited Japan multiple times supporting research.
Compliance Officer, Dr. April Kamp-Whittaker
April Kamp-Whittaker (PhD) is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of New Mexico, Department of Anthropology and Co-Field Director of the University of Denver Amache Project. Her research at Amache has focused on the archaeology of community and the development of social networks and neighborhoods. She has worked on historical and prehistoric projects across the U.S. and tries to find new ways to connect audiences to archaeology through public presentations, exhibits, and curriculum. Her publications include works on the archaeology of institutional confinement, the archaeology of childhood, and historic urbanism.
Director, John Tonai
John grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles, California. He is an artist and educator, served as a professor of Art at the University of Northern Colorado and the University of Sioux Falls. Having earned a BA in History from the University of Sioux Falls and a MFA from the University of Minnesota, he combines these two in his work, which is primarily concerned with the experiences of the Japanese Americans both historically and in contemporary
society. His work has been shown at the Japanese American National Museum and National Japanese American Historical Society. John has long been involved with Amache through the Amache Historical Society II, and he is a descendant of Amache incarcerees.
Compliance Officer, Greg Kitajima
Greg Kitajima is a sansei and an Amache descendant. His mother and father were incarcerated at Amache as young children, along with most of their extended families. His professional background is in Japanese Gardens and continues to work as an Aesthetic Pruner of ornamental trees and shrubs. Although mostly focused on pruning, he continues to consult and work with Japanese Garden builders from the US and Japan. Greg has been a volunteer with the DU Amache Field School since 2016 and continues to work with the field school utilizing his knowledge of Japanese Garden design to help to interpret many of the gardens that have been uncovered.
Special Advisory Council
Carlene Tanigoshi Tinker
Amache 11G-4C & Teacher She grew up in Los Angeles, forced moved to the Santa Anita Racetrack Assembly before finally arriving in Amache in 1942. Carlene attended U.C.L.A. where she earned her B.A. and M.A. in Sociology as well as her General Secondary Teaching Credential. Carlene married her husband, John Tinker, a Fresno State University Sociology professor. After raising twin children, Carlene returned to teaching, she taught Biology and later became a guidance counselor in Fresno for 14 years. Since 2009, she has been a Denver Univ. Amache Archeology Field School volunteer. In 2022, she will serve her seventh summer a volunteer sharing her experience with students. Carlene shares her experiences as an Amachean in the hopes of keeping the legacy of Amache alive.
Stacey Okubo Davis
Amache Descendant Stacey Okubo-Davis is a Colorado native and lifetime Colorado resident as both her parents’ families settled in Denver following internment – her father's family from Amache and mother's family from Minidoka. Amache preservation was a passion, a priority for her father Henry Okubo, who understood Amache's historic significance and the need for education. In turn as his descendants, continuing Amache preservation and education are important to Stacey and her brothers. Now retired, following a career for over thirty years working in Government contract management, Stacey looks forward to contributing her applicable experience in support of the Amache Alliance mission.
Patricia Allyn Biggs, PhD
Historian and retired interpretive ranger at Manzanar National Historic Site Patricia Allyn Biggs is a historian and retired National Park Service interpretive ranger. During her 12 years working at Manzanar National Historic Site, she researched, wrote, and designed award-winning exhibits, fostered outreach to local communities and indigenous groups, conducted oral history interviews of elders who had experiences with Japanese American confinement sites, conducted public history interpretive programs, provided guidance to management team and superintendents on specific historical issues, and worked with stakeholders and partner organizations to fulfill Manzanar’s mission. As the NPS liaison to Manzanar’s cooperating association, Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association (ESIA), Biggs collaborated with a publisher, photographer, the Ansel Adams Family Publishing Trust, and the Center for Creative Photography, to republish Ansel Adams’ 1944 book Born Free And Equal: The Story of Loyal Japanese Americans. She also wrote a new preface for the 2021 edition. Biggs was one of three key collaborators who wrote the National Park Service whitepaper, “Terminology and the Mass Incarceration of Japanese during World War II,” incorporating input from various stakeholders within and outside the government. Biggs holds a doctoral degree in US History with an emphasis on intercultural dynamics, Native American cultures, and the American West. Her 2011 dissertation, Tangled Truths: The Power of Worldviews, Memories, and Material Interests in NAGPRA Disputes, 1990–2010, was chosen by Arizona State University in April 2012 for the Michael Steiner Memorial Award for Best History Dissertation or Thesis.
Dr. Bonnie Clark
Univ. of Denver Anthropology Professor & DU Amache Project Dr. Bonnie Clark serves as a Professor in the Anthropology Department at the University of Denver (DU), as well as the Curator for Archaeology of the DU Museum of Anthropology. She is the author or editor of numerous publications including Finding Solace in the Soil: An Archaeology of Gardens and Gardeners at Amache (2020, University Press of Colorado). Dr. Clark leads the DU Amache Project, a community collaboration committed to researching, preserving, and interpreting the physical history of Amache, Colorado’s WWII-era Japanese American incarceration camp (https://portfolio.du.edu/amache).
Erin Tsurumoto Grassi
Amache Descendant & Policy Director at Alliance San Diego Erin Tsurumoto Grassi is fourth generation Japanese American Amache descendant and a proud hapa. Her experiences growing up biracial in the San Francisco Bay Area, along with her family’s experiences being interned during World War II, helped shape her passion for social justice and racial equality, and ultimately led her to become involved in immigrant rights work. Erin works as a policy director at Alliance San Diego, where she helps lead and coordinate the organization’s local, state and federal policy work. While at Alliance San Diego, she has helped coordinate and grow the San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium (SDIRC). Erin holds a Bachelor's degree from Whittier College in Political Science and Spanish, and a Master's of Art degree from UC San Diego in Latin American Studies with a concentration in International Migration. She is also a 2016 alumna of the San Diego Leadership Alliance Institute, and a member of APALA San Diego
NPCA Colorado Program Manager Tracy Coppola is based in Denver and serves as the Colorado Senior Program Manager for the Southwest Regional Office. She is proud to have the opportunity to celebrate her state's incredible parks and advocates. Prior to NPCA, Tracy was at Earthjustice where she served as Senior Legislative Counsel on public lands policy and worked on campaigns to defend bedrock environmental laws and protect national forests, parks, and monuments primarily in the Southwest and Northern Rockies. Her other nonprofit roles include serving as Director of Wildlife Protection for the Humane Society of the U.S. and as a campaigns officer for the International Fund for Animal Welfare. She has worked on campaigns to protect vulnerable and endangered species; lobbied Congress on natural resource trade; passed statewide public safety and domestic violence survivor protection bills; and created non-traditional alliances and coalitions, which she has found to be the most interesting and rewarding part of her work.
Amache Descendant & Retired City of Denver Dir. of Human Rights & Community Relations Mr. Derek Okubo, recently retired Executive Director of Human Rights and Community Partnerships of the City of Denver. Past leadership included the Japanese American Leadership Delegation (JALD) program and founder of the Friends of Amache preservation group. Mr. Okubo has a distinguished career record of promoting human relations, leading to a successful nomination for his current position. He is a leading figure in various activities including many with the Japanese-American community in Colorado, and is a recognized Japanese-American leader in Colorado.
Nonprofit Grant Manager Ms. Daniels has worked with a diverse range of Amache stakeholders as an expert in historic site preservation, planning, project execution and management. Since 2008, she has been instrumental in organizing meetings, charrettes, and synthesizing information to maximize stakeholder viewpoints in project planning processes. She has successfully directed large- and small-scale projects at Amache from inception to completion including notable projects such as the restoration of the water and guard towers, the website and driving tour, the reconstructed barrack, and the restored recreation building. Ms. Daniels, in her work with Amache, has represented Colorado Preservation, Inc. (CPI), Colorado’s premiere historic preservation organization, helping to secure and manage funding from the National Park Service’s Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant program, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Colorado’s State Historical Fund, and other philanthropic entities. Ms. Daniels is now an independent historic preservation consultant and continues to represent CPI in the management of ongoing physical preservation, education, and interpretation projects at Amache.
Amache Descendant & Executive Director National Japanese American Historical Society Rosalyn Tonai is the executive director of the National Japanese American Historical Society, Inc. (NJAHS) where she has served since 1990. Teamed with the National Park Service/Golden Gate National Recreation Area and The Presidio Trust, NJAHS has developed the Military Intelligence Service Historic Learning Center a $5 million adaptive reuse project at Building 640 in the Presidio of San Francisco. This historic site preserves the unique story of the first US Army Language school which secretly trained mostly Japanese American linguist soldiers one month before the attack on Pearl Harbor. NJAHS offices are currently headquartered in San Francisco’s Japantown, where Ms. Tonai oversees its gallery, education, collections and archives operations. She serves as a board member of the Japantown Task Force, a preservation and planning body for one of the last remaining Japantowns in the US. She is an Advisory Board member of the National Veterans Network, promoting the Congressional Gold Medal of the 100/442/MIS, and is a granddaughter to an Amache incarceree. Ms. Tonai is a graduate of the Getty Museum Management Institute and the Coro Foundation Asian Pacific leadership program. She holds a M.A. in nonprofit management from the University of San Francisco’s College of Professional Studies and a B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley.