Punjabi Americans

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Punjabi American
Panjabi USC2000 PHS.svg
The language spread of Punjabi in the United States according to U. S. Census 2000
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Philadelphia, Sacramento, New York City, Metro Detroit, Atlanta, Raleigh-Durham, Charlotte, Baltimore-Washington, Boston, Chicago, Dallas–Fort Worth, Houston, Los Angeles, New Jersey, San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle
English, Punjabi, Urdu, Hindi
Sikhism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Unaffiliated
Related ethnic groups
Indian Americans, Pakistani Americans, Punjabi Mexican Americans
A Punjabi-Mexican American couple, Valentina Alarez and Rullia Singh, posing for their wedding photo in 1917.

Punjabi Americans, are Americans whose ancestry originates wholly or partly from the Punjab region of India and Pakistan. There are over 300,000 Punjabi Americans, many of whom were Sikhs who first settled in California's Central Valley to do agricultural work.


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.[2]

"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.[3]

Role in America[edit]

Most Sikhs started life in America as farm labourers, with many eventually becoming landowners and successful farmers. In 1956, Dalip Singh Saund became the first Asian American 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, as well as Nikki Haley, the former United States Ambassador to the United Nations[4] and the 116th governor of South Carolina.[5]

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.[6] Aneesh Chopra served as the first Chief Technology Officer of the United States (CTO), appointed by President Barack Obama.

Notable Punjabi Americans[edit]




  • Heems, rap artist and former member of alternative hip-hop group Das Racist
  • Raveena Aurora, singer-songwriter


  • Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana
  • Nikki Haley, governor of South Carolina and former United States Ambassador to the United Nations
  • Kashmir "Kash" Gill, former mayor of Yuba City, California
  • Ravinder "Ravi" Bhalla, mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey and first turban-wearing Sikh mayor of a U.S. city
  • Dalip Singh Saund, first Asian American and first member of a non-Abrahamic faith elected to the House of Representatives
  • Ro Khanna, U.S. Representative for California's 17th District

See also[edit]


  1. ^ US Census Bureau American Community Survey (2009-2013) See Row #62
  2. ^ The Pioneers, America, "A historical perspective of Americans of Asian Indian origin 1790-1997" 31 October 2006
  3. ^ Bhatia, Sunil. American karma: race, culture, and identity in the Indian diaspora. p. 84 (2007) ISBN 0-8147-9959-0.
  4. ^ "Nikki Haley confirmed as new U.S. envoy to the United Nations". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2017-01-25.
  5. ^ Nossiter, Adam (October 22, 2007). "In a Southern U.S. state, immigrants' son takes over". International Herald Tribune. Retrieved 2008-10-14.
  6. ^ Shankar, Ravi (26 August 2010). "Capitol cats". India Today. Retrieved 30 March 2011.