By Rabinder Singh Bhamra, NY

THE Sikhs are deeply attached to their faith. Equality among sexes and a democratic communal functioning is characteristic of the Sikh society. As a dynamic and enterprising people with a practical outlook, they are known for their avidity for soldiering, farming and wanden lust. In search of better opportunities, Sikhs have travelled and settled in different parts of the world. Some of the flourishing Sikh colonies in Southeast Asia, East Africa, United Kingdom, British Columbia, and Ontario speak of their resilience, broad outlook, initiative, self-confidence and above all faith in their Guru and God. On the West Coast of North America, Sikhs settled in California and British Columbia around the turn of the century. in spite of the most trying circumstances of intense hardship, the early settlers preserved with faith their dedication to their homeland and formed the Ghadar Party in California, which made a historic contribution for the freedom of India. Within less than a generation they established themselves economically and played distinguished roles within American society: Jawala Singh, leader in the San Joaquin agricultural community, Rep Dalip Singh Saund, first Asian to be elected as member of the US. House of Representatives who sought the passage of legislation that allowed the Indians to become citizens in 1946, and the unique contribution that Sikh culture has made in the U.S.A. and Canada in the development of farm and Jumber industry are noteworthy.

Harsh immigration conditions and racism resulting in passage of Asiatic Exclusion Bill of 1917 reduced the flow of East Indians into this country and overly limited, till 1946, the growth of Sikh communities in America. The second wave of Sikh immigrant: came after 1965 as a consequence relaxation of US. Immigration Act when quotas based on race were replaced by figures determined by nationality. Sikhs from India, East Africa, Great Britain, Fiji and other nations poured into the United States and Canada. These Sikhs, however, differ from the earlier settlers not only in their educational background but also in their social, religious and political attitudes reflected by the changes and advancements made in India after achieving independence in 1947. Amalgamation of the old and new Sikhs has given the Sikh community a well-rounded character and consequently we find Sikhs in all walks of life: farmers, businessmen, doctors, scientists, engineers, teachers, managers, attorneys, and entrepreneurs all over the United States and Canada. They are some of the finest professionals one can find anywhere in the world.

Many decades ago Sikh Temples (Gurdwaras) were built in El Centro, Stockton (California) and Vancouver (BC) and more recently in New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Detroit, Toronto, Montreal, San Francisco, and New Jersey in order to preserve the Sikh values. In towns where Gurdwaras are not established yet, Sikh gathers in rented halls or private houses regularly. Gurdwaras serve educational, cultural, and religious functions and give the devotees a feeling of solidarity of the Sikh Panth. These also support libraries and supplement education programs with classes in Punjabi, Sikh History and scriptures for the new generation. Sikh youth camps are being organized at various places like Pittsburgh, Houston, Detroit, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Albany and Chicago which recreates an atmosphere where Sikh history and culture can be readily imbibed by the Sikh youth. The various Sikh societies and Gurdwaras which have sprung up in the last decades in different parts of the United States and Canada show the strength of revitalization movement which started since 1965. Each congregation sought a dramatic reinstitution of important religious and cultural traditions reaffirming the identity and individuality of the group. In ten brief years Sikhism became a North American religion practiced over a wide geographical area in Canada and the United States,

Article extracted from this publication >> April 22, 1988