The Punjabi community, which originated from Indian state of Punjab and Pakistani province of Punjab, were the first ethnic group from the South Asian diaspora to settle in America. Religiously, Sikhs of Punjab numbered as the first, with Punjabi Muslims, Punjabi Hindus, etc. being the religious organizations to come to America after the 1950s era.
First Sikh immigrants
Sikhs have been a part of the American populace for more than 130 years. At the turn of the 19th century, the state of Punjab of British India was hit hard by British practices of mercantilism. Many Sikhs emigrated to the United States, and began arriving to work on farms in California. They traveled via Hong Kong to Angel Island, California, the western counterpart to Ellis Island in New York.
"Some Sikhs worked in lumber mills of Oregon or in railroad construction and for some Sikhs it was on a railway line, which allowed other Sikhs who were working as migrant laborers to come into the town on festival days".
Due to discrimination from Anglo Americans many early Punjabi immigrants in California married Mexican Americans, forming a sizable Punjabi Mexican American community. Punjabi farmers were also able to circumvent laws prohibiting their ownership of property by operating through American bankers.
Role in America
Most Sikhs started life in America as farm laborers, with many eventually becoming landowners and successful farmers. In 1956, Dalip Singh Saund became the first East Indian-born person to be elected to the United States House of Representatives. At present Amarjit Singh Buttar is perhaps the only turbaned Sikh who holds elected public office. He was elected in December 2001 to the Vernon, Connecticut Board of Education for a four-year term. He has also been recently selected as the Chairman of the Board. Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana is also of Punjabi descent. Many Punjabi Americans have become successful in technology-related fields. Vinod Dham helped to develop the Pentium processor while Vinod Khosla and Sabeer Bhatia co-founded Sun Microsystems and Hotmail respectively.
- The Pioneers, America, "A historical perspective of Americans of Asian Indian origin 1790-1997" 31 October 2006
- Bhatia, Sunil. American karma: race, culture, and identity in the Indian diaspora. p. 84 (2007) ISBN 0-8147-9959-0.
- Nossiter, Adam (October 22, 2007). "In a Southern U.S. state, immigrants' son takes over". International Herald Tribune. Retrieved 2008-10-14.
- Shankar, Ravi (26 August 2010). "Capitol cats". India Today. Retrieved 30 March 2011.