Sikhs in North America
According to "Buddhists,Hindus and Sikhs in America" by Gurinder Singh Mann.
"A few Sikh soldiers settled on the Pacific Coast of British Columbia, Canada, during the 1890s. Others followed, choosing to emigrate to Canada because it, like India, was then part of the British empire. Eventually, a number of these Sikhs would move from Canada south to the United States. Sikh began to emigrate to the United States at the beginning of the 20th century. By about 1915, approximately 6,000 of them had landed on the West Coast, either directly or way of Canada. Most came from the Punjab.A few arrived from places like Hong Kong and Shanghai, China, where they had served in the British armed forces.These early Sikh immigrants, both well-travelled soldiers and those who had left their villages for the first time, hailed from small to medium- sized ladowning families in the central Punjab. Many of them had left home to make money, expand their holdings, and improve the status of their families in the home villages of the Punjab.
The Sikh immigrants were concentrated in the California valleys. They found this dry, sunny agricultural region similar to the plains of the Punjab. With their background in farming, they quickly adjusted to their new habitats. Other Sikhs worked in lumber mills of Oregon or in railroad construction. The Sikhs' arrival on the West Coast coincided with a period of intense anti- Asian activity and sentiment. White Americans could not imagine that Asians could ever become good citizens of the United States, for they believed that in order to do so the Asians would have to become part of the Euro- American culture and this they could never do, many believed, because they were racially different. During this period, Stockton, California, emerged as the center of U.S. Sikh life. Some Sikhs had managed to acquire farms in the area and saw Stockton as a god meeting point.
It was on a railway line, which allowed other Sikhs who were working as migrant laborers to come into the town on festival days. The first Sikh association in the United States , the Pacific Coast Khalsa Diwan, was registered in Stockton in 1912. Through this association, the Sikhs established the first U.S. gurdwara in 1915.The gurdwara at Stockton flourished . Geographically, the Sikhs of the region were spread across a large, and some were on the move constantly, looking for seasonal labor, but they all gathered to celebrate religious festivals at Stockton. In the 1910s, Sikhs in California were involved in the activities of the Ghadar party, a revolutionary group based on the West Coast that was committed to driving the British out of India. After World War I ended in 1918, however, the Ghadar party faded. The fact that the Stockton gurdwara remained the only one in the United States until 1948 indicates that the Sikh community did not grow during this period. The easing of the immigration laws coincided with a rise in the number of Sikh students from India to U.S. universities. An overwhelming majority of these students decided to stay in the United States after completing their studies. The additionof these academically and professionally trained individuals brought an important new element to the Sikh population, which had been overwhelmingly rural in the past. Over the years, the university trained Sikh have risen to influential positions in their communities.
The new law opened the door for a large second wave of Asian immigrants, including Sikh men & women with Indian degrees in medicine, engineering, and other academic subjects, arrived in such cities as New York and Chicago.Where they settled depended upon the availabilty of jobs in their fields, but unlike the earlier immigrants, they were not concentrated on the West Coast. The new wave of Sikh immigration after 1965 also inlcuded families from places other than Punjab. At the beginning of the 20th century some Sikhs had settled in East Africa.When political pressures there later forced them to leave, many went to the United States. Another group of families left Kabul, Afghanistan, when war broke out between that country and the Soviet in the late 1970s. Most of these people arrived in the United States with considerable experience in business. A third wave of Sikh immigration began in the mid 1980s as the result of political upheavals in India." During the 1980s many Sikhs came to U.S. seeking political asylum; since some of them were harassed at the hands of Indian police officials, as well as the Indian government. "Beneath the surface of resounding religious activity coming from these impressive structures, 20th century American Sikhs had yet to define their relationships with the Punjab and mainstream U.S. society." "Until the end of the 20th century, Sikhs in the United States were busy creating a religious life that was essientially a replica of what they knew in the Punjab. As the American children of Sikh immigrants grow to maturity, they will move into roles of leadership and will make chanes suite to their own needs."