Entangled Histories of Assimilation: Dillon S. Myer and the Relocation of Japanese Americans and Native Americans (1942–1953)

  • Saara Kekki University of Helsinki
Keywords: Japanese Americans, Native Americans, assimilation, relocation, Dillon S. Myer


Dillon S. Myer (1891–1982) has been framed as the lone villain in incarcerating and dispersing the Japanese Americans during WWII (as director of the War Relocation Authority) and terminating and relocating Native American tribes in the 1950s (as Commissioner of Indian Affairs). This view is almost solely based on the 1987 biography Keeper of Concentration Camps: Dillon S. Myer and American Racism by Richard Drinnon. Little more has been written about Myer and his views, and a comprehensive comparison of the programs is yet to be published. This article compares the aims of the assimilation and relocation policies, especially through Myer’s public speeches. They paint a picture of a bureaucrat who was committed to his job, who held strongly onto the ideals of Americanization and assimilation, and who saw “mainstream” white American culture as something for all to strive after, but who was hardly an utter racist.

Author Biography

Saara Kekki, University of Helsinki
Saara Kekki received her PhD (passed with distinction) in North American Studies from the University of Helsinki in 2019. Her dissertation employed historical “big data” and dynamic network analysis to study the Japanese American community of the Heart Mountain, Wyoming, relocation center during World War II incarceration (internment). She is currently a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Kone Foundation project “Human Migration and Network Analysis: Developing New Research Methods for the Study of Human Migration and Social Change.” She can be reached at saara.kekki@helsinki.fi.