Museum on Punjabi immigrants opens in American city

Washington: Capturing the story of over 100 years of the small yet influential Punjabi community in the US, a multi-media exhibition celebrating its contribution has opened in a Sikh-dominated Californian city.

The first permanent exhibit of its kind in the United States, ‘Becoming American: The Story of Pioneer Punjabis and South Asians’, the exhibition opened over the weekend in the Community Memorial Museum of Sutter County in California`s Yuba City.

Known as the prune capital of the world, Yuba City has a sizeable Sikh community.

In fact, the Yuba-Sutter Area has grown to be one of the largest in the US and one of the largest Sikh populations outside Punjab.

The exhibit, developed by the Punjabi American Heritage Society, intends to provide a better understanding of their faith, traditions and experiences.

"It (the museum) documents the hardships they faced on their arrival in California in the early twentieth century and their journey to `Becoming American`," said community leader Jasbir Kang.

The museum is a multi-media record of the challenges and successes of generations of Punjabi Americans, he added.

In a message, the California Governor, Edmund G Brown said showcasing the story of the Punjabi Americans and South Asian migration to the US is a valuable and needed resource for current and future generations.

According to local media reports, about 300 people attended inauguration of the permanent exhibition, attended by eminent community leaders and Government officials.

Beginning with the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the exhibit tells the history of the immigration of the Sikh community to the US, their legislation and court cases, and early victories, starting with the ability to buy land and the eventual successes in country`s politics.

"Punjabis were among the first immigrants from the Indian subcontinent to come to California.

"They settled in farming regions, including the Yuba-Sutter area. With hard work and determination, they built a strong community that preserves the traditions of their homeland while becoming an important part of the state.

"A look at their faith, traditions, and experiences settling in a new land are key to understanding the role Punjabi Americans play in the cultural fabric of California today," it said.

The exhibition reflects how the Punjabi community, even in the face of restrictive laws and discrimination, adapted to their new lives in California.

They built successful businesses and excelled as students. They established a network of community organisations and served with distinction in the armed forces.

Immigration restrictions made it difficult for Punjabi women to come to the US Men who wanted to have families often decided to marry Mexican Americans.

Some men chose to remain as bachelors, it says.


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