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St. Paul Resettlement Committee

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Mrs. Thomas Yamazaki with her daughters Luanne (left) and Aveline (right) at the St. Paul Resettlement Hostel

Mrs. Thomas Yamazaki with her daughters Luanne (left) and Aveline (right) at the St. Paul Resettlement Hostel. Thomas Yamazaki worked at the Military Intelligence Service Language School (MISLS) at Fort Snelling. From a clipping of the St. Paul Dispatch, ca. 1946, included in the St. Paul Resettlement Committee records, 1942–1953 (Manuscript Collection, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul).

The St. Paul Resettlement Committee formed in October of 1942 to assist with the relocation of Japanese Americans from the concentration camps established by the US government in March of 1942. It was one of thirty-five such committees that operated across the country during World War II.

As early as August 1942, the International Institute of St. Paul received letters from Japanese Americans in US concentration camps who wanted to relocate to Minnesota. The Japanese American Resettlement Committee was organized at the International Institute in St. Paul soon afterward, on October 5, 1942. Bess L. Beebe was its first chair; members represented social service agencies and interfaith churches in St. Paul.

The committee helped coordinate services for Japanese Americans leaving the concentration camps, and the local YWCA and YMCA offered short-term stays for single women and men. The International Institute of St. Paul, meanwhile, assisted with housing, job, and casework services.

A War Relocation Authority branch office led by Clement White opened in Minneapolis in March of 1943. Minneapolis also started its own resettlement committee. Denominational colleges in St. Paul, including Macalester, Hamline, St. Thomas, and Bethel enrolled Japanese American students. Churches welcomed new residents, raised money, and offered jobs and housing.

The first Japanese American couple to resettle in Minnesota was Ruth and Earl Tanbara, who came from California. They relocated to Minnesota in August of 1942 with letters of introduction from their former employers and an offer of a place to stay. Ruth Tanbara worked for the St. Paul YWCA and served on the St. Paul Resettlement Committee (SPRC). She also gave talks in the community to educate residents about the resettlement process.

In March of 1945, the SPRC reorganized as an official Council of Social Agencies Committee. Its legal counsel, Warren E. Burger, assisted with leasing a second-story hotel at 191 West Kellogg Boulevard in St. Paul, next door to the International Institute. The St. Paul Resettlement Hostel opened in December of 1945. Martha Magraw was the SPRC's chair; Tomiko Ogata, a Japanese American, was its dietitian; and Elizabeth Evans, a former missionary to Japan, was its director.

The hostel had seventeen rooms; organizers planned to rent ten from the hotel for the total sum of $200 per month. They raised funds from Japanese Americans living in St. Paul, local churches, and generous community members. Japanese American soldiers at Fort Snelling volunteered their labor to paint the rooms, build a kitchen, and install furniture. The SPRC planned parties for residents and those who were soldiers in the Military Intelligence Service Language School (MISLS) at Fort Snelling.

Prior to 1940 there had been eleven Japanese living in St. Paul, with a total of about fifty living in Minnesota. By March of 1945 there were about 1,000 people of Japanese descent in the state. Of these, 350 lived in St. Paul.

In September 1946, Evans reported to the SPRC that there were “eighteen residing [at the hostel], including Mrs. Ogata and myself.” However, at a September 11, 1947, committee meeting, she reported that five rooms at the hostel were vacant. Over a two-year period, 150 people had been furnished with lodging at the hostel.

At a May 5, 1948 meeting, SPRC member Father Daisuke Kitagawa said there was “no further influx of the Japanese and he feels there is no further need of the Hostel.” There was discussion about keeping the hostel open for the “displaced persons” evacuating from Europe. However, the committee decided to let its lease on the hostel expire.

In 1949, the SPRC decided to expand the scope of its mission to help Native Americans move from reservations in Minnesota to the Twin Cities. It also helped establish the Japanese Community Center, which opened in February of 1950 and was located at 2200 Blaisdell Avenue in Minneapolis. However, legislation to assist in the resettlement of Native Americans did not transpire, and fundraising efforts to continue the committee did not succeed.

At the November 28, 1952, annual meeting of SPRC, a proposal for dissolution of the organization was presented and the committee voted to approve the motion. The SPRC then gave college scholarships to three Native American women and donated the remaining balance of $300 to the Japanese Community Center in Minneapolis.

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Albert, Michael. “The Japanese.” In They Chose Minnesota: A Survey of the State’s Ethnic Groups, edited by June Drenning Holmquist, 558–571. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1981.

“Americans Facing a Problem.” St. Paul Pioneer Press (Sunday edition) rotogravure section, January 16, 1944.

Gorman, Kathryn. “Few Japanese Plan to Return to Coast.” St. Paul Dispatch, December 19, 1944.

——— . “New at 7 Corners: Hostel is Refuge for Nisei.” St. Paul Pioneer Press magazine supplement, February 24, 1946.

Niiya, Brian. “Public Law 503.” Densho Encyclopedia.
http://encyclopedia.densho.org/Public_Law_503/

——— . “Executive Order 9066.” Densho Encyclopedia.
http://encyclopedia.densho.org/Executive_Order_9066/

Phillips, Barbara. “Japanese Americans Find Haven on ‘Road Back’ to Normal Living.” Minneapolis Tribune (Sunday edition), March 12, 1944.

Robinson, Greg. “War Relocation Authority.” Densho Encyclopedia.
http://encyclopedia.densho.org/War_Relocation_Authority/

Sickels, Alice. Around the World in St. Paul. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1945.

BJ2.6/.S149
St. Paul Resettlement Committee (St. Paul, Minn.) records, 1942–1953
Manuscript Collection, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul
https://mplus.mnpals.net/vufind/Record/001730962
Correspondence, minutes, reports, clippings, records of its St. Paul Hostel (1945-1948), and other papers of this organization formed to help provide homes, work, financial aid, and social services to Japanese Americans were forcibly removed from the Pacific Coast during World War II. After 1948 it devoted some attention to living conditions among urban Native Americans. Correspondents include Ruth Gage Colby, Ruth Tanbara, Martha Magraw, and officials of the US War Relocation Authority, the Young Women’s Christian Association, and the International Institute of St. Paul.

147.G.7.3B
Ruth Tanbara papers, 1906–2008
Manuscript Collection, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul
https://mplus.mnpals.net/vufind/Record/001735068
Correspondence, biographical materials, photographs, newspaper clippings, and printed material related to the forced removal of Japanese Americans from the West Coast during World War II, memoir correspondence and drafts for Reflections, an oral history transcript for the St. Paul–Nagasaki Sister City Project, and a manuscript copy of her cookbook, Ruth Tanbara’s Japanese Food Recipes. Included are official pamphlets regarding restrictions placed upon Japanese Americans and letters from friends in concentration camps describing conditions in various camps.

Tsuchida, John Nobuya, ed. Reflections: Memoirs of Japanese American Women in Minnesota. Covina, CA: Pacific Asia Press, 1994.

Related Images

Mrs. Thomas Yamazaki with her daughters Luanne (left) and Aveline (right) at the St. Paul Resettlement Hostel
Mrs. Thomas Yamazaki with her daughters Luanne (left) and Aveline (right) at the St. Paul Resettlement Hostel
The Muto family at the St. Paul Resettlement Hostel
The Muto family at the St. Paul Resettlement Hostel
Alice Tokuno and Kate Iwasaki at the St. Paul Resettlement Hostel
Alice Tokuno and Kate Iwasaki at the St. Paul Resettlement Hostel
International Institute, St. Paul
International Institute, St. Paul
Christmas party at the St. Paul Resettlement Committee Hostel
Christmas party at the St. Paul Resettlement Committee Hostel
Christmas dinner at the St. Paul Resettlement Committee Hostel
Christmas dinner at the St. Paul Resettlement Committee Hostel
St. Paul Resettlement Committee Hostel
St. Paul Resettlement Committee Hostel
International Institute, St. Paul
International Institute, St. Paul

Turning Point

In August 1948, with the Japanese American resettlement crisis winding down, the St. Paul Resettlement Committee does not renew the lease on its hostel despite the passing of the Displaced Persons Act in June. The committee decides to turn its attention to helping Native Americans move to the city, as well as assisting with the establishment of the Japanese American Community Center.

Chronology

December 7, 1941

The Japanese Imperial Navy Air Service bombs Pearl Harbor in a surprise attack.

December 8, 1941

The United States Congress declares war on the Empire of Japan.

February 19, 1942

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9066. The order creates an official war zone in the western United States and leads to the forced removal of all persons of Japanese descent from the West Coast.

March 18, 1942

Executive Order 9102 establishes the War Relocation Authority.

March 21, 1942

Congress passes Public Law 503, which removes 110,000 Japanese Americans and their native Japanese parents to concentration camps built by the US military in ten remote locations.

August 1942

Ruth and Earl Tanbara, a Japanese American couple from California, are the first to relocate to Minnesota.

October 23, 1942

The Committee on Resettlement of Japanese Americans is organized through the national International Institutes.

December 17, 1944

Public Proclamation No. 21 resolves that as of January 2, 1945, Japanese Americans held in US concentration camps may return to their homes or relocate elsewhere.

December 1945

The St. Paul Resettlement Hostel is open for business at 191 West Kellogg Boulevard in St. Paul.

September 11, 1947

At a St. Paul Resettlement Committee meeting, it is reported that five rooms at the hostel are vacant. Over a two-year period, 150 people had been furnished lodging.

June 25, 1948

The Displaced Persons Act of 1948 is signed into law by President Harry S. Truman.

August 1948

The resettlement program of Japanese Americans ceases to be an immediate problem, and the St. Paul Resettlement committee decides not to renew their three-year lease on the hostel.

1949

The St. Paul Resettlement Committee decides to expand its scope to help Native Americans who are interested in moving from reservations in Minnesota to St. Paul.

1949

The St. Paul Resettlement Committee helps establish the Japanese Community Center. It opened in February of 1950 and was located at 2200 Blaisdell Avenue in Minneapolis.

November 24, 1952

At the annual meeting of the St. Paul Resettlement Committee in St. Paul, a proposal for dissolution of the organization is presented for discussion. The committee votes to approve it.