• Sikh Community Exhibition

    Sikh. Seek? Sike? Sick?




Sikh. Seek? Sike? Sick?

Even in a city as cosmopolitan as Seattle, it’s hard to find anyone who can pronounce the word correctly, let alone find someone who is knowledgeable about the world’s fifth largest organized religion, Sikhism, or its followers, Sikhs (pronounced “siks,” and usually mispronounced as “seeks”). Today, 26 million people worldwide identify themselves as Sikhs. A half million Sikhs live in the United States, and about an equal number in Canada.

Approximately 20,000 Sikhs live in greater Seattle. Yet if you mention that Sikhs wear turbans and have beards, you’re more than likely to hear someone casually mention, “Oh you mean like Arabs?” and even an occasional, “Like Osama bin Laden and those terrorists from the Taliban?”

But Sikhs aren’t Arab nor are they terrorists nor are they part of the Taliban. In fact, our region’s own Sikh community traces its start back over a century ago, back when the city was just growing from its logging town roots and McKinley was president. Since that time, Sikhs have made and continue to make positive contributions to the Pacific Northwest, in ways as varied as their presence in our area – from professionals leading technology companies to youth influencing hip-hop culture with bhangra music. To understand the story of the Sikh community in the Pacific Northwest is to find a perspective where the spiritual and worldly matters of life converge.

Know this world to be transient like a dream, a stage in which we act and depart, nothing in it is true and lasting besides the light of God. 
– Guru Nanak Dev Ji


Granville at West Hastings – Sikh men dressed in dapper suits cross Granville Street at West Hastings in Vancouver, British Columbia, 1908. Over 5,000 Sikhs had come to Canada by this time. Photo from Vancouver Public Library #5236

Three Women in Canada Mill Town – Most of the first Sikh immigrants found work in lumber mills throughout the Pacific Northwest. Canada’s largest mill community, Fraser Mills in New Westminster, had between 200 and 300 Sikhs living and working there in 1925. Here, Sikh women stand in front of company houses at the mill. Photo courtesy of Mike Ghuman

Children at Renton Gurdwara – Classes are held in the Gurdwara to teach Gurmukhi script, Gurbani (Scriptures) and Sikh History. Here are children from one such class held every Sunday at the Gurdwara Singh Sabha of Washington in Renton. Photo courtesy of Jasbir Kaur

Family at Renton Gurdwara – A Sikh Family at the Gurdwara Singh Sabha of Washington in Renton. Photo from The Wing Collection


History of Sikhism

The Sikh tradition is one of justice and equality whether it’s gender equality or the destroying of the caste system.
– Jaideep Singh
Suddenly I had an epiphany: real Sikhs … live regular lives, and worship in congregations like everyone else.
– Siri Kirpal Kaur Khalsa
The Gurdwara [is the] central gathering place, not only for religious prayer and knowledge, but also [for the] community [to] get together. Your kids can go to the Gurdwara and realize there are a lot of Sikhs out there, and we all believe in the same thing. It’s important and religion’s important and prayer is important and community is important.
– Sorena Kaur

Sikhs are a people and a religious group sharing a rich culture, tradition, scripture, script and institutions of their own. Twenty-six million people worldwide identify themselves as followers of the Sikh faith, making it the fifth largest world-religion. Sikhism, one of the youngest Asian religions, was revealed to Guru Nanak over 500 years ago in the Punjab (“Punj” = Five + “Aab” = Water, meaning the “Land of Five Rivers”), the Sikh homeland in South Asia.The history of Sikhism is inseparably entwined with the lives of its founders, the Gurus. The word “Guru” means an enlightened Master who takes people from spiritual darkness to light, and followers of the Gurus became known as Sikhs, meaning “disciples” or “students.” The founder of the Sikh religion was Guru Nanak, who was born in 1469 in Punjab in South Asia. During his life, Guru Nanak Dev Ji witnessed people living in great social and religious oppression. Dominant religions divided people into separate classes and gave higher classes a “justifiable” excuse to treat lower classes as they saw fit. Guru Nanak taught a message of love, understanding and constant remembrance of a One Universal Creator or God, common to all people. Hindus and Muslims, the poor and the rich – all were encouraged to live together peacefully and in unity. He used the language of the common people to share his teachings using metaphors that they could easily relate to, and empowered individuals to speak out for their own basic human rights.

Guru Nanak (d. 1539) passed on the enlightened leadership of this new religion to nine successive Gurus. The second Guru, Guru Angad Dev Ji (d. 1552), standardized the script – Gurmukhi, which means “from the mouth of the Guru.” He taught this script to all who wanted to learn. The third Guru, Guru Amar Das Ji (d. 1574), affirmed Sikhism’s principle of equality for women and formalized the practice of Langar, a free community kitchen where all sit together as equals removing all distinctions of class or social status. The fourth Guru, Guru Ram Das Ji (d. 1581), designed one of the most significant Sikh places of worship, the Harmander Sahib, which in turn was constructed by the fifth Guru, Guru Arjan Dev Ji (d. 1606). Guru Arjan Dev Ji also compiled Sikh sacred texts – Adi Granth – the first Sikh Holy Book. The compilation included hymns from the first five Gurus and saints from other religions. The sixth Guru, Guru Har Gobind Ji (d. 1644), defended Sikhs against the invading Mughal Empire and introduced martial arts and weaponry to the Sikh followers. He wore two swords – Miri, symbol of temporal authority, and Piri, symbol of spiritual authority. The seventh Guru, Guru Har Rai Ji (d. 1661), and his successor Guru Har Krishan Ji (d. 1664) maintained military efforts. The ninth Guru, Guru Teg Bahadur Ji (d. 1675), sacrificed his life in order to protect Hindus who were being forced to convert to Islam by the Mughal Emperor, an act symbolic of his stand for the individual’s right to practice the religion of their choosing. The tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji (d. 1708), would be the last Guru in human form. Guru Gobind Singh Ji furthered the Sikh identity and established the Khalsa Order, which continues to this day.

The Khalsa was comprised of individual “saint-soldiers” who participated in an initiation ceremony called the “Khande di pahul。” The primary duty of a Khalsa was to live with honesty and compassion, respect all of God’s creation, and work to abolish injustices in the world。 Guru Gobind Singh asked all Sikh men to use “Singh” meaning a lion and women to use “Kaur” meaning a princess as their last names, thus shedding their caste identity。 This symbolized that everyone was born equal。 Guru Gobind Singh Ji ended the line of human Gurus。 He passed the spiritual authority to Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the Sikh scriptures, and the temporal authority to the Guru Khalsa Panth, collectively all initiated Sikhs worldwide。 Written in poetic verse, the Guru Granth Sahib Ji contains the teachings of the Sikh Gurus and writings of saints from other faiths。 It serves as the eternal spiritual guide of the Sikhs。

Panoramic photograph of the Harmander Sahib taken in 1977. Photo courtesy of Kanwal Inder Singh Neel.

The Harmander Sahib, literally the “Temple of God,” is located in Amritsar, Punjab, and is considered to be historically one of the most significant Sikh places of worship in the world. Completed in 1601 by the fifth Sikh Guru, Guru Arjan Dev Ji, the Harmander Sahib was built around a Sarovar (small lake), a natural lake known for its tranquility and sweet water. It is constructed with a door on each of the four sides of the building, symbolizing acceptance of people from all faiths, classes, communities and creeds. Directly across from the central building is the Akal Takht, meaning “Throne of the Immortal.” It is the primary seat of Sikh religious authority and central altar for Sikh political assembly. It provides guidance or clarification on any point of Sikh doctrine. The Akal Takht was built slightly lower than the Harmander Sahib, indicating the balance between the religious and the temporal parts of one’s life.

Construction of the Harmander Sahib began under the guidance of the fifth Guru, Guru Arjan Dev Ji。 The foundation stone was laid in 1588 by a Muslim Saint, Hazrat Mian Mir, underlining the Guru’s intention to promote interfaith dialogue and symbolize the universal character of the faith。 The structure, sometimes referred to as the Golden Temple, was first plated with gold by Maharaja Ranjit Singh in the early 19th century。 At the heart of the structure is the Guru Granth Sahib Ji where Kirtan is continuously sung and read 20 hours a day。

Timeline of Sikhism

1469 – The founder of the Sikh faith, Guru Nanak Dev Ji – the word “Guru” meaning an enlightened Master who is able to take others from spiritual darkness to light – was born in Punjab, South Asia. Guru Nanak Dev Ji passed on the leadership of this new religion to nine successive Gurus in human form.
1492 – Christopher Columbus reached the Americas.

1600 – William Shakespeare, the most prolific playwright of the Renaissance, compiled Hamlet.

幸运快31601 – The Harmander Sahib, historically one of the most significant Sikh places of worship in the world, was completed near the town of Amritsar, Punjab, South Asia. The Harmander Sahib (literally “House of God”) was constructed with a door on each of the four sides of the building, symbolizing acceptance of people from all faiths, classes, communities and creeds.

1604 – Guru Arjan Dev Ji, the fifth Sikh Guru, compiled the Adi Granth – a collection of hymns from the first five Gurus and the saints from other faiths。 The Adi Granth was installed by him at Harmander Sahib。

1620 – Pilgrims landed in the Mayflower at Plymouth Rock in the American colonies after escaping religious persecution in Europe.

1640 – Western philosopher Descartes coined the phrase Cogito, Ergo Sum [I think, Therefore I Am], and wrote about the mind as the human connection with God.

1675 – Guru Teg Bahadur Ji, the ninth Sikh Guru, protested the forced conversion of Hindus to Islam by the Mughal Empire in South Asia and was beheaded in New Delhi, sacrificing his life for religious freedom.

1690 – Salem witch trials took place in Massachusetts where people were wrongly accused and unjustly put to death。

1699 – Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the tenth Sikh Guru, established the Khalsa Panth, creating a “Fellowship of Saint-Soldiers” who commit to living life with honesty, compassion, respect for all of God’s creation, and working to fight tyranny and injustice in the world.

1708 – Guru Gobind Singh Ji passed away and ended the line of human Gurus。 He passed guruship to Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji and the Khalsa Panth。

1710 – Banda Singh Bahadur established the first Sikh republic in Punjab, South Asia. Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah issued a decree, putting a price on every Sikh’s head.

1712 – Banda Singh Bahadur and his compatriots were publicly executed by the colonial Mughal Empire. Sikhs spent the next 50 years fighting against oppression.

幸运快31776 – The United States of America was established. The opening of the Constitution reads, “We the people…ensure blessings of liberty.”

1789 – The French Revolution brought the ideology of liberty through the self, unity and brotherhood to the forefront of Western society.

1799 – Maharaja Ranjit Singh entered Lahore marking the ascendancy of Sikh rule in Punjab and beyond.

1842 – The Khalsa Jio signed a treaty with the Dalai Lama, extending the Sikh Kingdom from Afghanistan to Nepal and from Little Tibet to the Sutlej River.

1845 – 1849 – The Anglo-Sikh Wars took place in Punjab and ended with the colonization of the Sikh Kingdom into British India。

1861 – 1865 – The Civil War took place in the United States and ended with the freedom of slaves throughout the country.

Basic Beliefs

Some basic beliefs of Sikhism include:Monotheism. There is only one God, who is omnipresent and infinite.

Human equality. All people are equal, regardless of religion, race, social class or gender.

Salvation by virtue, not rituals. A person is saved through devotion to the One God, serving humanity, and honest labor.

Positive outlook. Both happy and sad events in life are the will of God, and need to be accepted with a cheerful outlook.

No clergy. All people are equal before God. There are no priests to perform religious functions or dictate how people should think or act.

The eternal Guru Granth Sahib Ji. The scripture containing the writings of the Gurus and other holy saints is the final spiritual authority and instructor to all Sikhs.

Common meal. Langar, the common meal, is a free, vegetarian meal served at all Sikh places of worship, known as Gurdwaras. It is open to everyone, regardless of class, religion, etc., and represents that everyone is equal. It is vegetarian so that people with any dietary restrictions may eat.

Fight for justice. Sikhs have a long and celebrated heritage of speaking out against injustice and fighting for the defenseless.

Guru Khalsa Panth. The order of the Khalsa was established by the Guru Gobind Singh – the tenth Sikh Guru. Sikhs who are ready to commit to following the tenants of the faith undergo an initiation ceremony and become a member of the Khalsa.

幸运快3Members of the order of the Khalsa maintain a strict spiritual and moral discipline and can be identified by their five articles of faith, known as the “five K’s。” Wearing the five K’s serves as a reminder of one’s spiritual quest, and is an easily identifiable uniform for others to recognize。 The five K’s are:

Kes (uncut hair). Sikhs do not cut their hair, both out of deep reverence for the perfection of God’s creation and because it is an expression of acceptance of whatever God has given them.

Kangha (comb). Just as a comb helps remove tangles and cleans the hair, Sikhs carry a wooden comb to remind them to make a conscious effort to remain pure and spiritually clean.

Kara (metal bracelet). Worn on the right wrist, the bracelet reminds Sikhs that they are bound to God and have an unbreakable link to the Gurus and other Sikhs. It reminds them to exercise restraint at all times.

Kirpan (religious sword). The word kirpan is derived from the words kirpa (act of kindness) and aan(honor, respect, self-respect). It is usually a curved blade with a length no greater than nine inches, though the length can be much smaller. The kirpan is a reminder to Sikhs that it is their spiritual duty to help anyone in need and always be ready to defend the weak and the oppressed.

Kachh (shorts). This is a pair of knee-length shorts worn as an undergarment. It is a reminder of self-control and marital chastity.

An additional article of faith is the dastaar (turban). Neither cultural paraphernalia nor a fashionable trend, the dastaar represents the Sikh’s commitment to always be recognized and therefore to never be able to shun responsibility. It represents the sacrifices that the Gurus made for the right to freedom of religion and for the rights of the poor and others who cannot freely live out their lives. Though mandatory for only Sikh men, some Sikh women also choose to wear the dastaar.

With the formalization of the Sikh identity, Sikh women started to leave their family’s last name to take the last name Kaur (meaning “princess”), while Sikh men took the last name Singh (meaning “lion”).

Photo courtesy of Savraj Singh.
Kirtan. Kirtan is the singing of hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib Ji. Accompanied by traditional South Asian instruments, they are sung in a way that encourages participation from the entire Sangat (congregation).
Accompanied by traditional South Asian instruments, they are sung in a way that encourages participation from the entire Sangat (congregation).

Photo from The Wing Collection.

People Serving Langar. The Langar, or the community kitchen, attached to Sikh Gurdwaras, is a unique institution that is aimed at removing the separations of color, caste and creed. Called the pangat, everyone sits in a line without any distinction to eat vegetarian food cooked and served by persons of any caste. All the work involved in preparing the food, serving it and clearing up afterwards is called “seva,” which means voluntary, selfless service.

Photo courtesy of Jasbir Kaur.

Gurmat Camp. Music is an integral part of Sikhism. The Guru Granth Sahib Ji is written in 31 different Ragas, with each hymn written in a particular melodic scale, highlighting a particular emotion. The use of music enables a more heartfelt experience and also encourages involvement from everyone. Here, youth at Gurmat camp – special camps for youth to learn more about Sikhism and connect with others – learn to play the harmonium.

Photo courtesy of The Sikh Coalition.

Five Kakkar. Sikhs can be easily identifiable by the wearing of the Five Kakkar. These articles of faith strengthen a Sikh’s inner spiritual life and encourage them in the service of others.

Kes, or unshorn hair, requires continued deep conviction, especially in today’s society. Sikhs develop great inner strength to be able to constantly accomplish this task, nurturing their spiritual well being, and ultimately helping serve those around them.Kangha, the small wooden comb, is usually attached to a small string, which allows it to be tied with the rest of the hair without risk of falling out.Kara, the metal bracelet, is most commonly made of steel and symbolizes strength, determination and devotion.
Kirpan, the religious sword, by design is symbolic and if ever used, is strictly only for defense.

Kachh, the undergarment, can also be worn on its own due to its long length, reaching down to the knees。 Kacch can be useful for swimming, sports and other activities。

Photo courtesy of Sutinder Kaur.

Nagar Kirtan. A Nagar (Public) Kirtan is held on various significant dates in Sikh history. The community gathers together, and with the Guru Granth Sahib Ji on the head float, follows a common parade route, praying along the way in celebration of the event. Owners of houses along the route commonly set up stations where they distribute food and drinks to participants.

Photo courtesy of Sutinder Kaur.

Hola Mohalla. The festival of Hola Mohalla includes competitions in Gatka – the Sikh martial art form –along with Kirtan and poetry. Hola Mohalla is a time to celebrate Sikh traditions and remember the importance of living life prepared to protect and defend others as well as be spiritually sound.                                    

The Turban

Savraj Singh tying a turban. Photo by Richard Nicol.

The dastaar, as the Sikh turban is known, is an article of faith made mandatory by the founders of Sikhism. Not to be regarded as mere cultural paraphernalia, for a Sikh, keeping unshorn hair or wearing a turban is not a matter of choice but a matter of commitment to life. It represents the Sikh’s commitment to always be recognized and never be able to shun responsibility. Furthermore, the turban represents the sacrifices that the Sikh Gurus made for the right to religious freedom and for the rights of the poor and the downtrodden.
The dastaar, is created out of a long piece of cloth, ranging from four to eight meters in length. Each morning the tying of a turban can take anywhere from five to 10 minutes and includes folding the cloth, then carefully wrapping it around the head. Sikhs will wear their dastaar throughout the day as part of their outfit, coordinating the color with their clothes and the activities they have planned for the day. Sikh children are usually seen wearing a patka, which is a square piece of cloth with short strings off every corner. Until they are ready to tie a dastaar, they wear a patka to keep their hair clean and well kept and set them apart as Sikhs, the same purposes as the dastaar.


Sikh community

Like other groups in the Pacific Northwest, the story of the Sikh community stretches back to pioneer days of our region, where lumber, farming and fishing dominated the economy and railroad tracks were still being laid to connect us with the rest of the continent. The first well-known record of Sikhs visiting the Pacific Northwest was in 1897 when Hong Kong-based Sikh soldiers from the British Empire traveled through Canada on the way home from Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in London. They saw the potential to settle and work in North America, and shared their vision with other Sikhs back home in Punjab. Soon, Sikh immigrants – mostly male laborers – entered North America through West Coast ports, including San Francisco, Astoria, Seattle and Vancouver.
At first, immigration began without incident, but soon, because of prejudice and racism, Sikhs, like Chinese and Japanese immigrants before them, encountered outright hostility. Citywide riots in Vancouver, British Columbia and Bellingham, Washington forced Sikh laborers from their homes. For many years, Sikh immigrants struggled to build a community in the Pacific Northwest despite laws prohibiting them from owning land. Additional laws barred women from joining their husbands and eventually banned immigration all together.

Two members of the 1st Punjab Cavalry in 1893. Photo courtesy of Gulinder S. Gill

Amidst calls in India for independence from British rule in the 1910s, many overseas Sikhs returned to Punjab to aid in the movement to free India。 Denied rights in North America, they returned to South Asia where they could fight for freedom。 Although the entire Sikh community did not depart, this event, combined with restrictive immigration laws, resulted in dwindling numbers of Sikhs in the Pacific Northwest。

The Sikh community did not begin to grow again until the end of World War II with the return to normalcy of travel and changes in immigration laws allowing for small quotas of Sikhs to come to Canada and the United States。 In the 1960s, both nations reformed laws again, removing discriminatory policies and allowing substantially increased immigration by Sikhs from South Asia。

Tragically, the next large wave of Sikh immigration would begin in 1984。 Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ordered the Indian Army to attack the Harmander Sahib in Amritsar as part of Operation Blue Star。 This attack was part of a mass-scale oppression of Sikhs by the Indian government。 The Sikhs were fighting for basic rights denied in the Indian constitution。 The government accused Sikhs of separatism and as a result of this attack, thousands of innocent devotees were martyred。 Historic and sacred institutions, including the Sikh Reference Library, which housed priceless manuscripts, letters written by the Gurus, handwritten copies of Guru Granth Sahib Ji and historical records, were burned。 Two Sikhs assassinated Indira Gandhi to avenge the killing of innocent Sikhs in Amritsar。 Over the next three days, approximately 10,000 to 15,000 Sikhs were brutally murdered in anti-Sikh pogroms, encouraged and directed by state police forces, the civil administrations and the leaders of the ruling Congress party。 What followed was over a decade of State oppression against the Sikhs, which included extra-judicial killings, disappearances, illegal cremations, torture and rape by Indian police and government agencies。 Fearing for their lives, many Sikhs immigrated to North America in hopes of starting a new life。 Today, the Sikh community in the Pacific Northwest continues to grow, with new arrivals coming to work and raise families。 Many younger members of the community are now second, third and fourth generation Sikhs born here in the Pacific Northwest, who know of Punjab only from brief vacations or stories told by their grandparents and parents。

Railroad workers, c.1900 – By 1899, approximately 2,000 South Asians lived in the United States. Sikhs worked on the railroad in Washington State, circa 1900. Photo from Oregon Historical Society #52788.

Railroad workers, 1909 – The Oregon Pacific & Eastern Railroad connected Cottage Grove, Oregon east to the Cascade foothills and serviced the lumber industry. Sikhs helped construct the railroad, pictured circa 1909. Photo courtesy of Southern Oregon Historical Society, Medford, Oregon, #1603.

Lumber Mill Workers – Sikh men employed at one of the lumber mills at Port Moody, British Columbia, circa 1907. Photo from The Bancroft Library Collection, University of California, Berkeley.

SS Minnesota – Sikh immigrants arrived in Seattle on the SS Minnesota on June 23, 1913. Photo by Curtis, negative #27255, courtesy of Washington State Historical Society, Tacoma.

Sikh men posed for a studio portrait most likely taken in Bellingham, Washington, circa 1905-1910. Photo by Henry Brown, #95.108.117 Whatcom Museum of History and Art.

Anti-Hindu Riots 
On September 4, 1907, a mob of approximately 500 men attacked Sikhs living in Bellingham, Washington, forcefully removing them from the town. Known as the “Anti-Hindu Riots,” the attack began with stones thrown at two Sikh workers on C Street, the center of the Sikh community. Although the initial instigators were arrested, the violence quickly escalated, resulting in smashed windows and doors and mobs encircling and threatening the Sikhs living there. Overpowering the small police force, the mob forced the community to either leave immediately or find refuge in the basement of city hall for the night. The next day approximately 300 Sikhs left the town.


Newly-arriving Sikhs loaded their belongings onto horse-drawn wagons at the Canadian Pacific Railroad pier in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1907.  Photo courtesy of Vancouver Public Library #9426.




Landing in Canada at the CPR pier 
Sikh immigrants usually traveled by steamship from Calcutta to Hong Kong, then from Hong Kong to Canada or the United States, a total journey of 30 days. An immigrant from India to Canada was required to have $200 in possession versus those from Europe who only needed $25. It is estimated that 2,623 South Asians entered Canada in 1907 – the final year before immigration was curtailed severely with only six admitted in 1908 and a total of 29 admitted over the next five years.

View of crowded conditions on the Komagata Maru. Photo courtesy of Vancouver Public Library #6232.

<p”>SS Komagata Maru, Vancouver, British Columbia 
In 1908, the Canadian government – eager to keep South Asians from immigrating and settling in Canada – suggested that they should voluntarily leave and settle in another British colony, in this case, British Honduras. In fall of 1908, they sent a delegation, including representatives of the Sikh community, to British Honduras. Upon their return, members of the Sikh community gathered at the Vancouver Gurdwara and unanimously resolved to refuse to go.</p”>

Although the government dropped this tactic by the end of the year, that same year they also attempted to stop Sikh immigration by passing a “Continuous Voyage Order” – requiring prospective immigrants to travel in an uninterrupted journey, and since no such voyage existed from South Asia, creating a requirement for immigration that would be impossible for Sikhs to meet. In 1914, however, 376 Sikhs, led by Bhai Gurdit Singh, challenged this order by making the trip on the vessel, Komagata Maru. Arriving in Vancouver on May 23, 1914, they were refused entry and kept anchored in Vancouver harbor for two months. Correspondence from this time indicates the conditions were inhospitable, with lack of food, water and medical care. On July 23, 1914, they were escorted out of Canadian waters by naval guard, sent on the long journey back to South Asia.

Upon return, the ship and its passengers were regarded as threats by the British colonial government – viewed as members of the Ghadar Party seeking freedom for South Asia from colonial rule – and subsequently arrested or killed. The passenger lists, reproduced nearby, contain the names of these brave individuals who took a stance and made great sacrifices for freedom on both sides of the world.

Photo courtesy of the Clatsop County Historical Society.

View of Astoria, Oregon 
From 1906 to 1922, Astoria, Oregon had a “Hindu Alley,” a block of bunkhouses, including a central cookhouse, near the Hammond Mill, which employed nearly 100 laborers from South Asia. Old-time Astorians reported that “they all wore white turbans,” and were therefore most likely Sikhs.

The first meeting of the Ghadar Party was held on April 23, 1913 in Astoria, Oregon. The meeting was held in the Finnish Socialist Hall, pictured here circa 1916.

Photo courtesy of The Sikh Coalition.

Bhagat Singh Thind 
Dr. Bhagat Singh Thind was an exceptional man with many skills – in his lifetime, he was a pioneer, scholar, soldier, spiritual scientist, writer, and most importantly, advocate of equal rights for all people, not just Sikhs. Born in Punjab on October 3, 1892, Thind was about 20 years old when he immigrated to the U.S., arriving in Seattle in 1913.  During World War I, he enlisted in the U.S. army and served until he was honorably discharged at the war’s end in 1918. He returned to the U.S., and in 1920, while living in Oregon, he decided to apply for U.S. citizenship. Though he was initially granted citizenship, it was challenged by a naturalization examiner, and his case went all the way to the Supreme Court – the landmark case that would be known as United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind (261 US 204) – which in 1923 ruled that U.S. citizenship was only for people considered “white” by a “common man’s understanding.

After the case, Thind remained in the U。S。 and went to on to receive his PhD from the University of California, Berkeley。 He then began a lifetime of work in the field of metaphysics where he drew on many concepts from Sikhism, giving lectures and writing several books。

Photo courtesy of Ek Ong Kaar Kaur Khalsa.

Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogiji 
Harbhajan Singh Yogi was a spiritual teacher and leader that many people credit with spreading the ideas of Sikhism and Kudalini Yoga to non-Sikhs in America and the West.  The son of a doctor, he was born in 1929 in Punjab and was highly educated, attending a Catholic school as a youth and graduating from Punjab University with a degree in economics. In 1968, he immigrated to North America, arriving first in Canada where he spent two months. Later, he moved to Los Angeles, where he became hugely popular and attracted many students. In 1969, he founded the non-profit group 3HO (Happy, Healthy, Holy Organization), which eventually spread internationally, establishing a presence in over 35 different countries. Until his death in 2004, he traveled extensively, wrote many books, and promoted peace through contacts in both government and private business. In 2005, the U.S. Senate passed a congressional resolution in his honor. His most famous quote is, “If you can’t see God in all, you can’t see God at all.

Photo courtesy of Mike Ghuman.

Rattan Singh & Gurnam Kaur   
Rattan Singh arrived in Canada in 1926, working at the Fraser Mill in New Westminster from 1926 to 1928, when he returned to Punjab for four years, during which time he wed Gurnam Kaur. Although she remained in South Asia and did not join her husband until after World War II, Singh returned to Canada in 1934, stayed for another five years, returned to Punjab for three years, and then traveled once again back to Canada. His journey back and forth was typical of many South Asian immigrants unable to bring their wives and families to North America.


Photo courtesy of the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution.

Smithsonian Institution Exhibition
The exhibition, Sikhs: Legacy of the Punjab, opened on July 24, 2004 at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, DC. The exhibition presents Sikh artwork and artifacts from the 18th century to the present, shares Sikhism with the nation, and claims the Sikh community’s place in our nation’s heritage.

1980s and the Sikhs

The affect of the tumultuous period of the 1980s in Punjab and the rest of India on the Sikh Diaspora in North America was very pronounced。 At the time of India’s independence from the British in 1947, Punjab – the Sikh homeland – was partitioned between India and Pakistan。 This event was followed by a terrible time in history when approximately one million lives were lost in violence, and mass immigration on both sides left the Punjabis in complete disarray。Sikhs were promised that the constitution would guarantee the rights of minorities in India。 As time went by, however, they felt marginalized with their grievances to the federal government ignored。 Sikhs aimed for better assignment of powers between the central and state governments, similar to the system of government in the United States。 The central government however presented their efforts as a separatist movement to justify mass scale torture and subjugation of Sikhs in India。 This led to the rise of militancy in the community。

The Indian government ultimately stormed the Golden Temple at Amritsar in June 1984 in what was called Operation Bluestar. Thousands of innocent devotees were killed. Besides the tragic loss of human life and many historic and sacred buildings, the Sikh Reference Library that housed a unique collection of priceless manuscripts, letters written by the Gurus, copies of Adi Granth, historical records and invaluable memorabilia, all went up in flames.

Two Sikhs assassinated Indira Gandhi to avenge the killing of innocent Sikhs in Amritsar. In the next three days, approximately 10,000 to 15,000 Sikhs were brutally murdered in anti-Sikh pogroms, encouraged and directed by state police forces, the civil administrations and the leaders of the ruling Congress party. Unregulated police brutality, torture, extrajudicial killings, and mass cremations against Sikhs in India continued. The Indian Government put down the militancy that followed by giving police forces absolute power. Judicial recourse for an ordinary Sikh was non-existent. Hundreds of youth and their families disappeared in what came to be known as “fake encounters.” Their bodies were disposed unceremoniously and they were never to be heard from again. This continued well into the 1990s.

Artwork courtesy of Rabindra and Amrit Singh.

The victims of the 1984 anti-Sikh pogroms were victimized twice by the Indian State。 No matter who may have been responsible for the pogroms, the state failed to give victims protection in any substantial measure。 Moreover, their tragedy was compounded by the state’s failure to bring the perpetrators of those gruesome crimes to justice。 Numerous state inquiry commissions and twenty-five years later, no conviction of any significance has been handed down in proportion to the scale of the horrors inflicted on those fateful days。 Justice delayed is Justice denied。

This artwork depicts a bird’s eye view of Operation Bluestar in the Harmander Sahib Complex in Amritsar, Punjab, capturing the anguish of the Sikh community. In the center is the Harmander Sahib itself, amidst blood-stained water. Surrounding it are different groups, including brutal soldiers and anguished pilgrims, as well as a historic Sikh martyr who – as legend has it – continued fighting after his head was cut off in an earlier Harmander Sahib attack. A group of blind-folded journalists symbolizes the insensitive media coverage of Operation Bluestar.

Timeline: Sikh Community in the Pacific Northwest

1867 – California and other states passed miscegenation laws that disallowed inter-racial marriages. The laws played on white fears of the amalgamation of black and white races.
1886 – U.S. Alien Land Law barred Asians from owning land.

幸运快31886 – Anti-Chinese riot in Seattle resulted in near complete expulsion of Chinese from the city。

1886 – Washington territorial legislature passed Alien Land Law, which barred non-citizens from owning land。

1889 – Washington territory achieved statehood。

1890 – The first wave of Sikh immigrants to North America began. The immigrants, mostly male laborers, worked in sawmills, built railroads and established farms. In Canada, most settled in British Columbia. In the United States, most settled in California, Oregon and Washington.

1897 – Sikh Lancers and Infantry in the Hong Kong Regiment visited Vancouver, British Columbia, after celebrating Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in London.

1906 – Khalsa Diwan Society established in Vancouver, British Columbia。 Sikhs rented a house in Vancouver for the Gurdwara。 Construction on a new Gurdwara began the following year。

1907 – Asiatic Exclusion League organized in Vancouver, British Columbia.

1907 – The “Anti-Hindu Riot,” in Bellingham, Washington ended with the expulsion of 300 Sikhs from the town。

幸运快31907 – Anti-Asian race riots, including Sikhs, occurred in Vancouver, British Columbia.

1908 – The Canadian government attempted to stop immigration from India by passing a “Continuous Voyage Order” requiring prospective immigrants to travel to Canada in an uninterrupted journey, which was not possible since ocean steamers could not travel directly from India to Canada. Additionally, Indian immigrants were required to have $200 in possession on arrival in contrast to Europeans who needed only $25.

1909 – Professor Teja Singh established the Guru Nanak Mining and Trust Company to organize and secure the economic welfare of the Sikh community in North America.

1912 – The first Sikh organization in the United States, Pacific Coast Khalsa Diwan, was founded in Stockton, California。

1912 – The first Gurdwara in the United States opened in Stockton, California. A small farmhouse was used as the Gurdwara until a new wood building was constructed in 1915. A brick building was ultimately constructed in 1929.

1912 – Gurdwaras were built in Victoria, Fraser Mills and Abbotsford, British Columbia.

1913 – California passed the Alien Land Act, which prohibited non-citizens from owning land。 Sikh farmers in the Imperial and Sacramento Valley lost control of their lands。

1913 – Ghadar Party was established in North America to fight for independence of India from Great Britain。 The first meeting in the United States was held in Astoria, Oregon。

1914 – 1915 – Sikhs in North America returned to Punjab, South Asia and led the struggle for independence. The revolt ended with the trial and martyrdom of the Ghadar Party leadership in the Lahore Conspiracy trial and the internment of some 1,500 Sikh emigrants in India. Over the next 30 years, the Sikh community made a disproportionate number of sacrifices (as compared to their size in India) for the freedom struggle. Over 80% of the people executed in the Indian fight for independence were Sikhs, who only represented roughly 2% of the population.

1914 – Sikhs traveled from Hong Kong to Vancouver on the steamship Komagata Maru chartered by an affluent Sikh from Hong Kong, Bhai Gurdit Singh, to challenge Canada’s “Continuous Voyage Order.” Anchored off Vancouver for three months with little food and medical care, they fought for their rights legally, were ultimately refused entry and escorted out of Vancouver by the Canadian Navy.

1914 – 1919  – World War I。

幸运快31917 – U。S。 Immigration Act of 1917 banned immigration of South Asian laborers and prevented South Asians from bringing over wives。 This and the Miscegenation Law of 1867 gave rise to the families often labeled as “Mexican Hindus” where Sikh men married Mexican women since both were categorized in the same race。

1919 – Canadian immigration restrictions on bringing wives and children from India were lifted。 More Sikh women and children began arriving in Canada the following year。

1920 – The 19th Constitutional Amendment was added and gave women the right to vote in the U.S.

1920 – California passed another Alien Land Law prohibiting non-citizens from leasing land.

1921 – Washington passed another Alien Land Law prohibiting non-citizens to own or lease land。 At this time, Asians were the only immigrants ineligible to become naturalized U。S。 citizens。 By 1925, Oregon, Idaho and Montana passed similar laws。

1923 – Bhagat Singh Thind, a U.S. World War I veteran, was denied citizenship by the U.S. Supreme Court because only Caucasians were allowed citizenship. This landmark case categorized Sikhs as non-Caucasians and set a precedent for granting citizenship based on race.

1939 – 1945  – World War II.

1941 – The Japanese Empire bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. At war with Japan, the United States unjustly imprisoned 110,000 Japanese American citizens and legal resident aliens of Japanese ancestry living along the West Coast in concentration camps, as fear and racism pervaded the country.

1945 – The second wave of Sikh immigrants to North America began with the end of World War II. This wave included highly educated Sikhs and brought an end to many legal barriers to immigration.

1946 – The Luce-Cellar Bill was passed and allowed some Sikhs to immigrate to the U.S. Approximately 5,000 Sikhs came between 1948 and 1965.

1947 – Sikhs were granted the right to vote and become citizens in Canada。

1947 – British India was divided into two separate countries – India and Pakistan. The Sikh homeland, Punjab, was split between the two countries, resulting in fear of religious persecution, mass immigration, riots and violence. Approximately one million lives were lost and 12 million people were displaced.

幸运快31948 – The Gurdwara in El Centro, Imperial Valley, California opened.

1950 – The Constitution of India was adopted. Sikh representatives in the Indian Constituent Assembly refused to affix their signatures to the official copy of the Indian Constitution since it excluded rights promised to them at the time of freedom from British rule. The Indian Constitution also wrongly categorized Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains as Hindus.

1950 – Narjan Grewall was the first Sikh elected to city council in Mission, British Columbia.

1953 – Narinder Singh Kapany developed a way to greatly increase the transmission of light within fibers and advanced the development of fiber optics as a way to transmit information。

1956 – Dalip Singh Saund was elected to U。S。 Congress from the 29th California District, and became the first Asian elected to the Congress。

1962 – Canada revised its immigration policy to drop a restrictive quota system in favor of non-discriminatory laws.

1965 – The U.S. Immigration Act of 1965 passed. This act swept away years of discriminatory, exclusionary immigration laws and opened the door for increased immigration, especially from Asian countries, to the United States.

1968 – Martin Luther King, Jr。 was martyred in the fight for civil rights for all people。

1968 – Harbhajan Singh Yogi arrived in California and started to bring Americans of European descent into the Sikh faith.

1975 – U。S。-Vietnam War ended。

1979 – Sikhs in Canada began holding an annual Vaisakhi Parade in Vancouver, British Columbia, to commemorate Guru Gobind Singh’s creation of the Khalsa, the order of the Sikh faith。

June 1984 – Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ordered the Indian Army to attack the Harmander Sahib in Amritsar as part of Operation Blue Star。 This attack was part of a mass-scale oppression of Sikhs by the Indian government。 The Sikhs were fighting for basic rights denied in the Indian Constitution。 The government accused Sikhs of separatism, and as a result of this attack, thousands of innocent devotees were martyred。 Historic and sacred institutions, including the Sikh Reference Library that housed priceless manuscripts, letters written by the Gurus, handwritten copies of Guru Granth Sahib Ji and historic records, were burned。

November 1984 – Two Sikhs assassinated Indira Gandhi to avenge the killing of innocent Sikhs in Amritsar. In the next three days, approximately 10,000 to 15,000 Sikhs were brutally murdered in anti-Sikh pogroms, encouraged and directed by state police forces, the civil administrations and the leaders of the ruling Congress party. Unregulated police brutality, torture, extrajudicial killings and mass cremations against Sikhs in India continued. Twenty-one years later, no one has been held accountable for these massacres.

1984 – 1990s  – The third wave of Sikh immigrants, escaping religious oppression in their homeland of Punjab, began to North America.

1984 – Sikhs opened Washington State’s first Gurdwara in Burien.

1988 – More than 20,000 attended the first annual Sikh Parade in New York, which marked Guru Gobind Singh’s creation of the Khalsa, the order of the Sikh faith.

1992 – The Rodney King trial verdict amplified already heightened racial tensions and sparked riots in Los Angeles, California.

1993 – Gurudwara Singh Sabha of Washington, located in Renton, opened.

1993 – Five Sikh Canadian veterans were invited to participate in a Remembrance Day parade, but later were denied entry into Canada’s veterans’ organization, the Royal Canadian Legion.

1996 – The non-profit organization Sikh Mediawatch and Resource Task Force (SMART) was established in Maryland. Its purpose was to promote the fair and accurate portrayal of Sikhs and the Sikh religion in American media and society.

1996 – The Supreme Court of Canada reaffirmed Sikh police officers’ right to wear a turban.

1996 – Canadian schools in British Columbia began offering Punjabi language classes as part of their regular curriculum for grades five to 12.

2000 – An Amnesty International report concluded that India has continued policies of terror against Sikhs. Unjust detentions and human rights violations in prisons have continued since 1984. No international human rights group has been allowed in Punjab since 1984. The exact number of people killed by the Indian State may never be known. Estimates range from 100,000 to 250,000.

September 11, 2001 – Al Qaeda terrorists attacked the New York City World Trade Center Towers and the Pentagon headquarters, killing thousands. Middle Easterners, Arabs, Muslims and Sikhs in the United States became targets of increased hate crimes and discrimination.

September 15, 2001 – Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh businessman, was shot in a hate crime outside his gas station in Arizona because of the turban and the unshorn beard that Sikh men wear as articles of their faith. His killer boasted while being arrested, “I stand for America all the way.”

2001 – The Sikh Coalition was established to address the misdirected hate and discrimination that the Sikh community faced in the aftermath of 9/11. In the weeks and months after 9/11, the Coalition developed as a grassroots organization across North America. Today, the Sikh Coalition continues to mobilize the Sikh community to work on local and national levels advocating for the rights of all Americans, raising awareness of Sikhs and Sikhism as well as working to civically engage the Sikh community.

2001 – The 107th U.S. Congress passed congressional resolution SCON 74 IS condemning hate crimes and acts of bigotry against Sikhs in America.

2001 – Amric Singh was fired by the New York Police Department (NYPD) for refusing to remove his turban and shave his beard. The Sikh Coalition, after exhausting all options, filed a federal lawsuit against NYPD in 2002. There have been numerous discrimination cases that organizations like the Coalition have resolved or are currently pursuing.

幸运快32004 – NYPD agreed to settle the case and allowed Amric Singh to serve in NYPD。

幸运快32004 – ENSAAF, a U.S.-based organization launched to enforce human rights and fight impunity in India, issued the report, “Twenty Years of Impunity: The November 1984 Pogroms of Sikhs in India,” which detailed the systematic way in which state institutions in India perpetrated mass murder. Efforts by organizations throughout the world have continued to end human rights violations in India and prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes.

2004 – The exhibition, “Sikhs: Legacy of the Punjab,” opened at the American Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution。

U.S. Immigration Legislation

Here are some additional key legislation and laws involving immigration to the U.S.:
1790: Naturalization rule. Immigrants are required by the government to live in the U.S. for two years before becoming citizens.

1882: Chinese Exclusion Act. Chinese immigration is banned.

1891: Office of Immigration created. A new government office is created to oversee immigration and naturalization.

1907: Gentlemen’s Agreement. An informal agreement between the U.S. and Japanese governments is made to limit immigration from Japan to the U.S.

1917: Literacy Test. Immigrants are required to pass a literacy test in their native language. Virtually all immigration from Asia is banned.

1924, 1927, 1929: National Origins Acts. The U.S. Border Patrol is formed. A quota admissions system is created limiting immigration by national origin, the number being 2% of the group’s population in the 1820 census. Later versions update the census used to the 1920 census.

1952: McCarran-Walter Act. Race as a reason for exclusion is removed from immigration criteria, but ideology is made a fact in immigration – a person can now be denied entry to the U.S. if they are a communist or a Nazi.

1965: Immigration Act Amendments. Quotas by nationality are discontinued, but limits are made to control immigration by the total national number.

Gurdwaras in the Pacific Northwest and Gurdwara Protocol

The Gurdwara Sacha Marag Sahib of Washington helps serve the rapidly growing Sikh community in Kent. Photograph from The Wing Collection.

幸运快3Gurudwara (Guru = “Spiritual Teacher” + Dwara = “Door”) is more than a place of worship for the Sikh community. It serves as a focal point in the lives of Sikhs, and has historically served as a refuge for the homeless, the helpless and the destitute. The Gurdwara is where the Living Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Granth Sahib Ji, is kept. Gurdwaras are established as places where the Sangat (congregation) can come together to worship as a community. They also serve as the center of learning and the place for discussing local and global issues. Every Gurdwara has a Langar hall where food is freely offered to anyone who desires a meal.

Gurdwaras usually display and fly the “Nishan Sahib,” a yellow (saffron) triangular flag bearing the Sikh symbol of “Khanda.” These have historically been symbols of an institution where any visitor, irrespective of their religion, race or creed, is offered shelter, food and comfort. The only conditions for entering a Gurdwara are removing shoes and covering the head. No alcohol, smoking or drugs are allowed on the Gurdwara premises. In a Gurdwara, no special place or seat may be reserved or set aside for any

Community Leaders


A lot of people are very hard working. Quite a few people are in very tough, good positions and contributing a lot to the community.
– Joginder Singh Rekhi

Dalip Singh Saund. Photo courtesy of the Saund Family.

Individuals both here and overseas have always had an influence across a broad range of disciplines, with both great and small impacts, both within the community and amidst the larger society.

In the field of science, Dr。 Narinder Singh Kapany is the widely acknowledged father of fiber optics。 As a scientist, inventor and entrepreneur, he holds over 100 patents for his work, has taught at UC Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara and Stanford University, and is an active philanthropist, donating to universities and museums。 In the field of agriculture, Didar Singh Bains is California’s “peach king,” farming over 16,000 acres of land, and Harbhajan Singh Samra dominates okra farming。 In the field of business, Sikhs serve as CEOs, presidents and vice presidents of major companies ranging from Ford Motor Company to ScotiaBank, and the largest U。S。 government security contract is held by Sikh-owned Akal Security, Inc。

In the field of civil rights, Sikhs have been instrumental in the struggle for equality. In 1923, Bhagat Singh Thind challenged the United States, opposing its citizenship policy based on race, fighting all the way to the Supreme Court, and exposing the systematic racism of U.S. law at the time. The first Asian elected to U.S. Congress was Dalip Singh Saund, a Sikh from California elected in 1956. A graduate from UC Berkeley with a doctorate in mathematics, Saund campaigned for the right of people with Asian ancestry to become naturalized citizens. In more recent years, Jaskaran Kaur, through the organization ENSAAF, has fought to end human rights violations in India and bring justice to the people of our world. Young pioneers like Baltej Singh Dhillon, the first turbaned R.C.M.P. officer, Amric Singh, the turbaned Sikh NYPD officer, and Palbinder Kaur Shergill, politician and prominent lawyer in Vancouver, B.C., continue to inspire us as examples of tomorrow’s leaders.

In the field of sports, 94-year-old Fauja Singh holds world marathon records and serves as an Adidas spokesperson. Sikh athletes compete in college basketball, professional boxing, Olympic rowing, and professional football.

Distinctions within the community abound and are ever-growing. Here, we celebrate past accomplishments, recognize leaders, and gain inspiration for future achievements.

Bhai Gurdit Singh幸运快3 In 1908, the Canadian government attempted to stop Sikh immigration by passing a “Continuous Voyage Order” requiring prospective immigrants to travel to Canada in an uninterrupted journey, which was not possible since ocean steamers could not travel directly from South Asia to Canada. In 1914, Bhai Gurdit Singh chartered the Japanese vessel, Komagata Maru, to bring Sikh immigrants to Canada, and arrived in Vancouver with 376 Sikhs on May 23, 1914. The ship was anchored in the Vancouver harbor for two months, while the Sikh community through the Khalsa Diwan Society petitioned the government to allow them to enter. Though the Komagata Maru was escorted out of Canadian waters by naval guard on July 23, 1914, Singh’s leadership and courageous act stand in defiance against discriminatory law and serve as a test case revealing the racism of the time. Photograph credit: Vancouver Public Library #6231

Mayo Singh 幸运快3emigrated from South Asia in 1906. He first worked in farms in Chilliwack, British Columbia, before joining other Sikhs in the lumber mills. In 1914, Singh partnered with Kapoor Singh to revive a lumber mill in New Westminster. In 1918, they expanded their business to Vancouver Island, establishing the Mayo Lumber Company near Duncan, B.C. A small mill town named Paldi after Mayo’s hometown village in South Asia soon raised up to support the several hundred Sikhs working at the mill.

Dalip Singh Saund Born in 1899 in Punjab, Dalip Singh Saund – the first Asian American elected to U.S. Congress – immigrated to the United States in 1920 to study at UC Berkeley, earning a doctorate degree in Mathematics in May 1924. For the next 25 years, Saund worked as a farmer and chemical fertilizer distributor in California’s Imperial Valley. An active member of the Hindustani Association of America, Saund petitioned U.S. Congress to grant citizenship rights to Asian Indians living in the United States. Finding support from Congresswoman Clare Booth Luce (CT) and Congressman Emanuel Cellar (NY), the Luce-Cellar Bill passed in both houses in 1943, making Asian Indians eligible for citizenship. In the face of racist threats and anti-immigrant bashing, Saund ran for U.S. Congress from the 29th California District in 1956. He went on to serve three terms.

Navdeep Singh Bains was elected to the Canadian Parliament for Mississauga-Brampton South, Ontario in 2004. Born in Toronto in 1977, Bains is the youngest Sikh to hold a position in Parliament. Gurbax Singh Malhi, elected in 1993, was the first turbaned Sikh to be elected to the Parliament. Currently there are five Sikhs serving in the Canadian Parliament.

Gurutej Singh Khalsa Located in New Mexico, Akal Security is one of the nation’s fastest growing security companies, and the nation’s largest provider of federal courthouse security officers. Founded by Gurutej Singh Khalsa (pictured here) and Daya Singh Khalsa in 1980, Akal Security has provided more than 8,000 officers to protect U.S. government facilities, including the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, DC, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Headquarters in Virginia. Akal secures the entry gates at eight U.S. Army Posts and protects the U.S. Army’s long-range missile test range in the Marshall Islands, as well as hundreds of federal government buildings in the Great Lakes Region of the United States.

Jagdeep Singh A leader in digital optical telecommunications systems, Jagdeep Singh has been president and CEO of three companies, AirSoft, Inc., Lightera and now Infinera, which he founded in 2001 in the heart of Silicon Valley. The company has radically innovated fiber-optics – the underpinning of internet service and modern communication networks – by creating a circuit called a “photonic chip” that combines multiple fiber-optic components, is capable of transmitting more than 100 billion bits of information per second, and has the potential to reduce equipment and operating costs for service providers throughout the world.

Dr. Narinder Singh Kapany Widely recognized as the “father of fiber optics,” holding more than 100 patents in fiber optics, laser technology, biomedical instrumentation and solar energy, Dr. Narinder Singh Kapany immigrated to the United States in 1955. After teaching at the University of Rochester in New York for two years, Dr. Kapany went on to head the Optics Department at Chicago’s Illinois Institute of Technology. He later established three companies, Optics Technology, Kaptron and K2 Optronics, as well as founded the Sikh Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the heritage and future of Sikhism.

Sarabjit Singh Marwah With a PhD in Economics and an MBA, Sarabjit Singh Marwah arrived in Toronto in 1978, joining Scotiabank as a financial analyst. Now, Vice Chairman and Chief Administrative Officer, Marwah helps lead Canada’s second largest bank and most international bank, with $318 billion in assets, more than 50,000 employees, serving 10 million customers in more than 50 countries around the world.

Gurkirpal Singh Dr. Gurkirpal Singh serves as Adjunct Clinical Professor of Medicine at Stanford University and Chief Science Officer at the Institute of Clinical Outcomes Research and Education in Palo Alto, California. Internationally renowned for his work on arthritis, Dr. Singh was recently invited by both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to give expert testimony on drug safety issues.

Rabindra and Amrit K.D. Singh London-born, twin sisters Rabindra and Amrit Singh, also widely known as the Singh Twins, paint together on single works in a style described by them as “Past-Modern,” rooting traditional and non-European art forms in Contemporary Art. Working within the Indian miniature art tradition, the Singh Twins explore contemporary cultural, social and political issues in a highly decorative style, often infused with witty and symbolic references. With work in both public and private collections, the Singh Twins have lectured at London’s Tate Gallery, the Art Gallery of Ontario, and San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum. In 2002, they also had a solo show at the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi, India.

Waris Singh brought the image of Sikhs to the large screen with his role in the major motion picture, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, produced and directed by Wes Anderson and starring Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Willem Dafoe, Cate Blanchett and Angelica Huston. Through his acting, Singh not only helps bring a positive Sikh image to American media but also shows Sikhism as a natural part of American society and serves as a role model for aspiring Sikh actors and actresses throughout the world.

Pardeep Singh Nagra In late 1999, Pardeep Singh Nagra – light-flyweight boxing champion of Ontario – was not allowed to box at the Canadian Championships by the Canadian Amateur Boxing Association because he refused to shave his beard which is a mandatory article of faith for Sikhs. Arguing his case, courts ultimately reversed the decision, calling upon the Canadian Amateur Boxing Association to end religious discrimination, uphold the Canadian Human Rights Act and Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and allow Nagra to compete without being forced to shave his beard. Today he serves in the Canadian Police and also works on various social justice issues.

Sheenu Kaur Ripudaman Kaur, currently a Seattle resident, attended the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ontario. She is shown here during Basic Training in Chilliwack, B.C., Canada. She is pictured here in the third row, far right.

Parminder Singh served as General Manager for Microsoft Xbox Asia – directing planning and business development for the Xbox and general manager of the home entertainment division in Japan – before becoming vice president of worldwide market development for interactive television software company Ensequence Inc. Prior to this he helped launch the Teledesic T1 satellite, the world’s first commercial low-Earth orbit satellite.

Shauna Singh Baldwin’s first novel, What the Body Remembers, was published by Knopf Publishers in 1999 and was subsequently awarded the 2000 Commonwealth Writer’s Prize for Best Book. Born in Canada, Shauna Singh grew up in India. Her works are deeply imbued with her North American and Sikh heritage. Her stories bear witness to the lives of women in India and North America. Whether located in the closed circle of the family or a campus or an office, the multiplicity of intertwining cultural, gender and class identities are explored with subtlety and clear authority.

Jaskaran Kaur is the co-founder and executive director of ENSAAF, an organization dedicated to bringing justice to human rights violations in India. She has written several reports documenting mass crimes against Sikhs in India, including Twenty Years of Impunity: The November 1984 Pogroms of Sikhs in India and Reduced to Ashes: The Insurgency and Human Rights in Punjab幸运快3, which analyzes over 600 cases of execution and disappearance.

Ek Ong Kaar Kaur is an ordained minister of Sikh Dharma International. She also serves as Communications Director for Sikhnet.  She is a community activist who speaks to young people in the community to raise awareness on different social and religious issues.

Sat Nirmal Kaur Akal Security is one of the nation’s fastest growing security companies, and the nation’s largest provider of federal courthouse security officers. Sat Nirmal Kaur serves as Akal’s Chief Executive Officer.



I felt like I was an American but there were times when it was a bit challenging. I used to get made fun of because I looked different wearing a patka. I remember there were times when I would get harassed by my fellow students. It was difficult, but nothing that I couldn’t overcome.
– Savraj Singh

When we were looking for a house, we were driving in Kirkland. I remember we were driving past Evergreen Hospital and a pick-up truck passed us and the guy leaned out of the window and said go back to your country. I remember I felt like I’ve just got kicked in my stomach.
– Simrit Sekhon

9/11… it was my second day at my new school so that was intense. I didn’t know how people would react…. I felt as though people were going just by appearances and a lot of discrimination was going to happen. I just had this internal gut feeling that it was going to be extra tough for people who looked different.
– Sujot Kaur

This racist cartoon, published in the San Francisco Call on August 13, 1910, not only reflected anti-immigration sentiments rampant throughout the United States but also captured faulty stereotypes with the turbaned Sikh mis-labeled as “Hindu” and depicted smoking, almost unheard of within the Sikh community. Photo from The Bancroft Library Collection, University of CA, Berkeley

Since their first arrival in North America, Sikhs have struggled against prejudice and mis-identification。 For most of the first half of the century, all people of South Asian background were called “Hindus” – an illogical label since “Hindu” was used to avoid confusion with Native Americans labeled “Indians” whom the first European explorers originally believed to be people from India。 Most people made little effort to distinguish that the Sikhs they met practiced a distinct religion from other South Asians。

In a post-September 11th world, mis-identification of Sikhs has continued, with tragic consequences. Following 9/11, television sets and newspapers were flooded with pictures of Osama bin Laden wearing a turban. As a result, there was a rash of attacks against Sikhs in the United States, with many non-Sikhs assuming that anybody who wore a turban was a terrorist – an assumption as flawed as saying that anybody wearing basketball shoes plays professionally for the NBA.
Sher Singh, a Sikh telecommunications engineer from Virginia, endured this mis-identification most publicly, as CNN telecast his wrongful arrest in the days following 9/11. Taking a train from Washington, DC to Boston, Mr. Singh was handcuffed while passengers jeered “Kill him” and a law enforcement officer taunted “How is Osama bin Laden?”
One horrible result of such prejudiced logic was the murder of Balbir Singh Sodhi in Mesa, Arizona four days after the 9/11 attacks. A Chevron gas station owner, Mr. Sodhi was shot to death while landscaping outside his station. Ironically, Mr. Sodhi had generously donated to the Red Cross to help 9/11 victims just a day before his murder.
Indeed, the Sikh community’s response to 9/11 was one of immediate compassion and care. Sikhs in the Pacific Northwest mobilized alongside fellow Americans to support victims. Gurdwaras organized blood drives for the survivors and gave material support to the Red Cross and other charities, and the Sikh community rallied together in the memory of those who had fallen at candlelight vigils all around the world. In the wake of hate crimes, Sikhs created organizations like the Sikh Coalition to defend their rights and educate the public about their community and faith, speaking at schools and libraries, participating in town hall events, and publishing curriculum and online resources for anyone willing to learn.

KKK Card. Photo courtesy of Parminder Singh


Parminder Singh was harassed by a group of individuals in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1984, and then summarily handed this Ku Klux Klan card.

The back of the card reads: “There are thousands of organizations working for the interests of Blacks. How many groups stand up for the cultural values and ideas of the White Majority? Not many; as a result we are faced with reverse discrimination in jobs, promotions, and scholarships – busing for forced integration – high taxes for minority welfare – a high rate of brutal crime – gun-control – anti-White movies and TV programs – in short, a society oriented to the wishes of minorities. We of the Ku Klux Klan are unapologetically committed to the interests, ideas, and cultural values of the White Majority. We are determined to maintain and enrich our cultural and racial heritage. We are growing fast and strong because we have never compromised the truth.”

Eyechart. This cartoon represents the Sikh community’s frustration with the constant misconceptions people have of the Sikh Identity. Courtesy of the Artist (Vishavjit Singh).

Current Issue! Despite a distinct and very visible identity and the fact that Sikhism is the world’s fifth largest religion, very few people around the world understand the Sikh community, and its beliefs, culture and traditions. Courtesy of the Artist (Vishavjit Singh).

Being Sikh in a Western World


When we came over, our children could communicate in English because they knew English. They studied in Kenya, and they could communicate very well. There was no problem for them to integrate – not assimilate but integrate – with their local friends. We had the advantage to go to the Gurdwara, and we did a lot of volunteer work at the temple. And our children – both of our sons – took a very strong part in sports.
幸运快3 – Gurdial Singh Neel

The community came with turbans in 1914, and it took 50 years to slowly lose what they had from India. And when the professionals from India came in, now is another trend – like we can do that. We can stay where we are. Everybody’s globally accepted now. Why do we have to change?
– Sutinder Kaur

Following 9/11, reactionary “no turban” policies were instated with discriminatory effects on the Sikh community. In 2002, Amric Singh filed suit against the New York Police Department (NYPD) who would not allow him to wear his turban, with the case resolved over two years later in favor of Singh and the Sikh community. Just this past year, subway train operator Kevin Harrington (Sat Hari Singh Khalsa) filed suit against the New York City Transit (NYCT) who had ordered him to stop wearing his turban or be demoted in his job, despite a 23-year career as a train operator wearing a turban.


Sikhs, like other groups who have come to Canada and the United States, are often caught between the tensions of maintaining their unique identity while adapting to Western culture. For some Sikhs, the transition to life in North America is easy, especially for those educated in the United Kingdom or other British Commonwealth countries. For others, including young Sikhs born and raised in North America, the challenges can seem overwhelming. While other immigrant groups have faced similar struggles, the Sikh experience is unique since the physical appearance of Sikhs is intimately tied to their strong religious beliefs and sets them visibly apart from the rest of society.In recent years, conflicts between Sikh beliefs and Western cultural norms have resulted in discrimination within the workplace, on athletic teams, and at neighborhood schools. For Sikhs, maintaining uncut hair and wearing the turban is part of their very being yet employers have demanded them to cut their beards and remove their turbans or lose their jobs. Sports organizations have not allowed Sikhs to participate citing “uniform” regulations even though Sikh athletes have demonstrated that the turban and beard have not impeded their performance and fellow non-Sikh athletes have supported their participation as well. No tolerance weapons policies on school grounds have included the kirpan, the religious sword and foundational article of their faith, forcing Sikhs to deny their religion and identity at the earliest of ages.

Despite these pressures, Sikhs have remained true to their beliefs and fought to preserve their religious rights. They have petitioned courts to force companies to rehire Sikhs and change workplace policies. Sikhs have demonstrated excellence in the football, basketball and boxing arenas and paved the way for future athletes. Sikh communities have organized to educate school boards, principals and teachers and help develop policies that maintain school safety while preserving religious freedom. With rising Sikh populations in school districts, including reports of nearly 20% of the population in some Kent, Washington classrooms, the Sikh community is very much a part of the Pacific Northwest mosaic. Without compromising their identity and religious beliefs, Sikhs have worked hard to integrate into workplaces, schools, teams and neighborhoods and in doing so, have enriched the fabric of our society.

Photo courtesy of The Sikh Coalition.
Senate Resolutions
The Washington State Senate issued Resolution 8735 on March 9, 2004 in honor of the 400th anniversary of the compilation and installation of Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the Sikh scriptures. Sikh community leaders also met with White House representatives to commemorate the anniversary.

Photo courtesy of Surinderjit Singh.

Expo 1974

Sikhs in Washington State shared cultural traditions from Punjab at Expo 74, the Spokane World’s Fair held in 1974. Approximately 5.6 million people attended the fair.

Photo courtesy of The Sikh Coalition.

Sikhs in Military
Sikhs have served with distinguished honor in both the Canadian and United States armed forces. Sikh veterans have fought alongside fellow Canadians and Americans in every major war this past century.

Photo from White House Press Photo.

Sikhs in Washington, DC
Sikh community leaders have met with President George W. Bush and White House representatives to celebrate and recognize significant events in Sikhism’s history as well as to discuss community issues particularly related to racism and discrimination following 9/11.

Photo courtesy of Paramjit Singh and Sutinder Kaur.

Khalsa Credit Union
The Khalsa Credit Union, registered in Canada on February 19, 1986, was formed to provide financial services to the Sikh community. The Khalsa Credit Union has five branches, located in British Columbia in Vancouver, Surrey, Abbotsford, Guildford and Victoria, with assets over $50 million.

Photo by Carina del Rosario, courtesy of the Asian Counseling and Referral Service, Seattle.

ACRS Outreach
幸运快3 For some members of the Sikh community, as within other immigrant communities, adjusting to a new life in the United States and accessing basic public services can be a challenge. Maninder “Meenu” Kaur works as the Sikh Advocate for Seattle’s Asian Counseling and Referral Service to help increase the Sikh community’s access to culturally and linguistically appropriate services, such as health care, immigration services and citizenship classes.

Sikh Olympic Dreams

Sikh Olympic Dreams – Hurdles. Photo courtesy of the Artist, Vishavjit Singh.

Sikh Olympic Dreams – Diving. Photo courtesy of the Artist, Vishavjit Singh.


First there was GAP… – Photo courtesy of the Artist, Vishavjit Singh.


“Rebound” Painting

Re-bound (4-11-2004, New York Times). Oil and latex on canvas 2005. Photo courtesy of the Artist, Maanik Singh Chauhan.


波克棋牌 大发麻将 秒速快3 大发麻将 公益福彩app