History and Experience of the Sikh Diaspora in the United States

3242 Words Jun 14th, 2012 13 Pages
History and Experience of the Sikh Diaspora in the United States

Sikh migrants began arriving in the United States more than one hundred years ago, and now have reached numbers close to half a million. Like most other immigrant communities in the United States, Sikhs have faced problems that are both specific to their community and that are also shared by other ethnic communities making their way in a new land. Despite their recent numbers and century long history in the United States, many of their fellow Americans know relatively little about Sikhs, their history, and their faith. They are often confused by others in the United States as being Muslim, as their religious beliefs require Sikh men to wear a turban. Others confuse
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A large number of these rural Sikhs found their way to the west coast of the United States. These early pioneer Sikhs mainly came to California as sojourners who had every intention of returning to the Punjab following financial acquisition and success in America. There was a high demand for agricultural workers in California at this time, and the Sikhs who migrated were mainly “uneducated agriculturists from the rural areas of the Punjab, who arrived as single males or as married men without their wives and children.”[6] The Immigration Act of 1917 and eventual financial successes in their new land led to a number of Sikh males setting up permanent residence in the United States, mainly in California's fertile central valley (which reminded the Sikh migrants of the fertile lands of the Punjab). The Sikh temple, or Gurdwara, in Stockton California celebrates its centennial anniversary this year. Early Sikh immigrants faced social, legal, and economic barriers that kept them from brining their families from the Punjab or from arranging marriages to Punjabi women in India, which made it difficult to pass along their Sikh faith and the Punjabi culture to their future generations. Many of these Sikh men entered into marriages and produced offspring with Catholic women of Mexican heritage. The similar familial values and desire for

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