ADVENTURE and enterprise are two gifts that every Sikh child supposedly receives at his or her nativity. No wonder Sikhs have settled in almost every nook and comer of this inhabited world and there is not a profession in which they have not excelled. Agriculture, however, remains their first love.

It was perhaps this instinctive love of the land which made the first batch of Sikhs that came to North America to settle in Yuba City. They started their life here as laborers and gradually acquired farms and ranches.

Sikhs had their first glimpse of America, the famous land of opportunities, when a Sikh platoon was selected by the then British Tulers of India for a free tour of Europe and America. This platoon came here in 1895 and Sikh soldiers were amazed at the high wages. As compared to India’s 1/4 rupee per day, a laborer here was paid Rs. 5.00 per day.

On their return to Punjab, Sikh soldiers of the platoon talked about the opportunities in America and in 1905 Bhai Piara Singh Bains of the Sikh platoon sailed to America along with Bhai Kapur Singh and 100 other Sikhs. They had their medical checkup in Hong Kong. They arrived here in 1906 and started working as laborers. Bhai Piara Singh and Bhai Kapur Singh, being literate, became the leaders of the contingent. They first started work on the laying of railway line from Los Angeles to Canada.

In 1909 a second batch of 900 Sikhs arrived here. They all worked hard and made money. They bought farms and ranches in the name of American citizens as they were not allowed to buy in their own names. They had to wait for 20 years to get the citizenship status.

No Sikh lady accompanied these batches. The first Sikh lady to land on the soil of America was the mother of S. Pritam Singh Poonia father in law of S. Didar Singh Bains.

Next batch of 1000 Sikhs came in 1924. By 1932 number of Sikhs here had grown to 2000. In 1946, the Immigration and Naturalization fixed a quota of 100 persons from India and in 1966 blood relations of the lawful residents here were allowed to migrate to America.

Success of the early Sikh settlers in Yuba City attracted more Sikhs to this primarily agricultural country. Today, it is known as a mini Punjab. There are two large Gurdwaras and a number of Indian shops catering to the needs of the migrants. A new generation of Sikhs, born and brought up here, has already made its impact on the sociopolitical life of the city. Sikh students form 10% of the school numbers but their score on the Honors Roll is invariably above 20%. Sikh population is no longer confined exclusively to agriculture. They have made their mark as doctors, engineers, teachers, lawyers and businessmen. Nearly 35% of the country land is owned by the Sikh settlers and S. Didar Singh Bains is known as the “Peach King of California.

Article extracted from this publication >>  March 6, 1987