Tibetan Americans

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Tibetan Americans
Total population
26,700 (Central Tibetan Administration estimate, 2020)[1]
Regions with significant populations
California (mainly Northern California), Colorado, Minnesota, Vermont, New Jersey, New York, Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Boston, Austin, Wisconsin, Chicago, Indiana, Oregon, Southern California, Los Angeles[2][3]
Tibetan, English
Tibetan Buddhism
Related ethnic groups
Tibetans, Chinese Americans, Bhutanese Americans, Nepalese Americans and other Asian Americans particularly Americans of East Asian and South Asian descent

Tibetan Americans are Americans of Tibetan ancestry. As of 2020, more than 26,700 Americans are estimated to have Tibetan ancestry.[1] The majority of Tibetan Americans reside in Queens, New York.[4]


Ethnic Tibetans began to immigrate to the United States in the late 1950s.[5] Section 134 of the Immigration Act of 1990 gave a boost to the Tibetan immigration to the US, by providing 1,000 immigrant visas to Tibetans living in India and Nepal.[6][5] Chain migration followed, and by 1998 the Tibetan-American population had grown to around 5,500, according to a census conducted by Central Tibetan Administration (CTA). The 2000 United States Census counted 5,147 US residents who reported Tibetan ancestry.[6]

Immigration timeline[edit]


An estimate of c. 7,000 was made in 2001,[5] and in 2008 the CTA's Office of Tibet in New York informally estimated the Tibetan population in the US at around 9,000.[6] In 2020, The Central Tibetan Administration estimated the number of Tibetans living in the United States to be over 26,700.[1] The migration of the Tibetans to the United States took on the pattern of 22 "cluster groups", located primarily in the Northeast, the Great Lakes region and the Intermountain West. Other communities include Austin, Texas and Charlottesville, Virginia. Tibetan Americans who are born in Tibet or elsewhere in Tibet are officially recognized as Chinese nationals not by choice due to China's occupation of Tibet.[9]


Advert in New York's "Little Tibet" neighborhood, urging Tibetan Americans to contribute to COVID-19 relief efforts for members of the diaspora struggling through India's 2021 COVID-19 outbreak.

Communities of Tibetan Americans in the Northeast exist in Boston and Amherst, Massachusetts, Ithaca, New York, and New York City, and in the states of Connecticut, Vermont and New Jersey. In New York and New Jersey, they live primarily in Queens and New Brunswick.

The town of Northfield, Vermont has been home for many years to the seat of the current Trijang Rinpoche, who has been estranged from the Dalai Lama due to the Dorje Shugden controversy, which has become a cultural heritage center for thousands of followers.


In the Mid-Atlantic region, the largest communities can be found in Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C., Montgomery County, Maryland, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Charlottesville, Virginia.

Great Lakes region[edit]

On the grounds of Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center, Bloomington, Indiana

Communities of Tibetan Americans in the Great Lakes region exist in Chicago and in the states of Minnesota, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan. There is a Tibetan Mongol Buddhist Cultural Center in Bloomington, Indiana near the campus of Indiana University.[10] The late brother of the Dalai Lama was a professor at the university.

Minnesota has the second largest concentration of Tibetan Americans in the United States.[11]

Western United States[edit]

Communities of Tibetan Americans in the western U.S. exist in Seattle, Washington, Portland, Oregon, Berkeley, California, several locations in Southern California, and in the cities and states of Colorado Springs, Colorado, Boise, Idaho, Montana, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Washington, and Salt Lake City, Utah.

Every year, Seattle holds an annual Tibet Festival in August.


Although quite small in number overall, Colorado has one of the highest concentrations of Tibetans in North America, focused on Boulder, Colorado Springs, Douglas County and Crestone. The state has Naropa University whose values statement states, "We are Buddhist-inspired, ecumenical, and nonsectarian welcoming faculty, staff, and students of all faiths as well as those who don’t ascribe to any religion."[12] There is a Buddhist commune[citation needed] west of Castle Rock and several cities have Tibetan outreach organizations. Colorado Springs alone has three Tibetan stores and a restaurant.

Much of the reason[citation needed] behind this rather peculiar demographic is that Tibetan guerillas were secretly trained by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) at Camp Hale outside of Leadville. Camp Hale was used as a training camp for expatriate Tibetans to be inserted to aid the existing resistance in Tibet after the region was retaken by the Chinese People's Liberation Army, between 1959 and 1965.

From 1958 to 1960, Anthony Poshepny trained various special missions teams, including Tibetan Khambas and Hui Muslims, for operations in China against the Communist government. Poshepny sometimes claimed[citation needed] that he personally escorted the 14th Dalai Lama out of Tibet, but sources in the Tibetan exile deny this.

The site was chosen because of the similarities of the Rocky Mountains in the area with the Himalayan Plateau. The CIA parachuted four groups[13] of Camp Hale trainees inside Tibet between 1959 and 1960 to contact the remaining resistance groups, but the missions resulted in the death or capture of many team members.

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Baseline Study of Tibetan Diaspora Community Outside South Asia (PDF) (Report). The Central Tibetan Administration. September 2020. p. 45. Retrieved 26 September 2020.
  2. ^ "Tibetan Americans | Encyclopedia.com". www.encyclopedia.com.
  3. ^ Lee, Jonathan H. X.; Nadeau, Kathleen (21 December 2010). Encyclopedia of Asian American Folklore and Folklife [3 volumes]: [3 volumes]. Bloomsbury Publishing USA. ISBN 9780313350672.
  4. ^ "Most Significant Unreached People Group Communities in Metro NY". GLOBAL GATES. 17 July 2012. Retrieved 27 October 2014.
  5. ^ a b c Bhuchung K. Tsering, Enter the Tibetan Americans: Tibetan Americans establish a presence in the United States. Tibet Foundation Newsletter, February 2001.
  6. ^ a b c Global Nomads: The Emergence of the Tibetan Diaspora (Part I), by Seonaigh MacPherson (University of British Columbia), Anne-Sophie Bentz (Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies), Dawa Bhuti Ghoso
  7. ^ Robert E Buswell JR; Donald S Lopez JR (24 November 2013). The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism. Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691157863.
  8. ^ Powell, John (2009). Encyclopedia of North American Immigration. Infobase. ISBN 9781438110127.
  9. ^ Ling, Huping (2008). Emerging Voices: Experiences of Underrepresented Asian Americans. Rutgers University Press. pp. 77–78.
  10. ^ "Tibetan Mongol Buddhist Cultural Center, Bloomington, Indiana". Archived 2010-01-31 at the Wayback Machine - official site
  11. ^ Immigration in Minnesota: Discovering Common Ground (PDF) (Report). The Minneapolis Foundation. October 2004. p. 14. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 March 2015. Retrieved 24 July 2014.
  12. ^ "Mission and Values". www.naropa.edu. Retrieved 2017-07-03.
  13. ^ Committee, Canada Tibet. "Canada Tibet Committee | Library | WTN | Archive | Old". www.tibet.ca. Retrieved 2017-07-03.
  14. ^ Gayley, Holly; Brallier, Joshua (2024). "Tibetan Buddhism in America". In Gleig, Ann; Mitchell, Scott (eds.). The Oxford Handbook of American Buddhism. Oxford handbooks series. Oxford University Press. p. 240. ISBN 978-0-19-753903-3. Retrieved 2024-04-15. Tenzing Rigdol, a Tibetan artist whose family immigrated from Nepal to the United States in 2002

External links[edit]