The Sikh Journey in America

Yaar Punjabi

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Timeline of Sikh Pioneer History

1897 – Kesar Singh is among the first Sikhs to visit Canada.

1899 – Sikhs are allowed to land in San Francisco
1904 – Guru Granth Sahib Ji is brought to North America.

1906 – Diwan Singh and Dhana Singh Poonian arrive in U.S.

1906 – Khalsa Diwan Society Established

1906-1922 – Astoria, Oregon: “Hindu Alley.”

1907 – Anti-Hindu riot occurs in Bellingham, Washington.

1908 – Vancouver, B.C. builds the first Gurdwara in North America.

1908 – Canada considers moving its Hindu immigrants to British Honduras.

1909 – “The Awakening of the Sikhs” in which they refused to wear British war medals or keep British military ranks.

1911 – Holt, California – Baba Jawala Singh and Baba Wasakha Singh appoint funds for buying a Gurdwara property.

1911 – First Sikh Prayer in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib in America.

1912 – Stockton Gurdwara founded.

1912 – Pacific Coast Khalsa Diwan Society founded.

1913 – Alien Land Law, State of California affects Asian Indian ownership of property.

1913 – Sikh wrestling prowess, March, 1913. Astoria, Oregon.

1913 – Gadar first meeting, Astoria, April, 1913.

1914 – Komagata Maru arrives in Vancouver, B.C.

1914 – Komagata Maru departs to India.

1915 – Stockton Gurdwara’s first permanent structure is finished.

1915 – Dedication of Stockton Gurdwara.

1915 – Kartar Singh Sarabha, editor of The Gadar (Punjabi), is hung by the British.

1917 – Asian Barred Zone and Literacy Test discriminates against Asian Indians.

1918 – Ottowa Plans to Recognize Paldi, Set Up Sikh Museum.

1921 – Hazing of turbaned Hindus by students at U.C. Berkeley.

1923 – Bhagat Singh Thind case. U.S. vs Thind 261 US 204(1923).

1925 – The Pahkar Singh Murders: A Punjabi Response to California’s Alien Land Law -

1929 – Stockton California Gurdwara’s current brick structure is finished.

1946 – Luce-Cellar Act passed, giving Asian Indians right to citizenship.

1948 – El Centro California Gurdwara established.

1956 – Dalip Singh Saund elected as first Asian, first Indian and first Sikh member of Congress

1960 – Narinder Singh Kapany, father of fiber-optics, coins the term “fiber-optics.”

1965 – Dr. Bruce LaBrack’s Study of South Asian Immigrants. The Indian community increased, especially the Sikhs, between 1965-75.

1968 – Har Gobind Khorana receives Nobel Laureate in Medicine: For their interpretation of the genetic code and its function in protein synthesis.

1993 – First turbaned Sikh elected in Canadian Parliament.

1994 – Prabhu-Poonam Goel & Rekhi Grant to benefit girls’ education in India .

1998 – Amartya Sen received the 1998 Nobel Laureate in Economics: For his contribution to welfare economics.

1998 – Founding of first Sikh Preschool in Northern California – Yuba City, California.

1999 – Sikh Canadian stamp released.

2000 – Ujjal Dosanjh is British Columbia Premier, Feb 21, 2000-June 2001.

2001 – Sikh-American community leaders meet President Bush.

2002 – Canadian Prime Minister gives Abbotsford, British Columbia Sikh Temple heritage status.

2003 – First Indian in the US Army Killed in Iraq.

2004 – “Sikhs: Legacy of the Punjab” at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution

2004 – Mohini Bhardwaj is the first Indian American girl in the U.S. Olympic Team.

2004 – White House marks 400th anniversary of Guru Granth Sahib.

2004 – Bobby Jindal becomes the second Indian-American elected to Congress.

Sikhs honor rich history in Stockton


Bhajan Singh Bhinder, trustee of the Kesar Singh Gadar Memorial Trust and coordinating secretary of the centennial, drapes the old printing press used in the early 20th century to print materials demanding India's independence.

.....................................................Sikhs honor rich history in Stockton |

This fall, Stockton Gurdwara Sahib celebrates a century of history, some of it surprising:
» It is oldest temple in the United States; the birthplace of Sikhism in America.
» It has a direct link to Indian independence and was home to the Ghadar (Revolution) Party, which agitated for a free, independent and united India four decades before that status was achieved in 1950. Sikhs describe Stockton as "ground zero for India's independence struggle."
» America's first Punjabi-language newspaper was published by the Ghadar Party and financed by Stockton Sikhs.
» Bhagar Singh Thind, a civil rights pioneer and the first Sikh to serve in the U.S. Army (during World War I), was a member of Stockton Gurdwara.
» Starting in 1957, Democrat Dalip Singh Saund served three terms in the House of Representatives. He was the first Asian, Indian and Sikh elected to Congress. Before that, he was secretary of Stockton Gurdwara.
For many, the compound on South Grant - which will be renamed Sikh Temple Street on Jan. 1 - is hallowed ground.
Vancouver, B.C., also has a rich history of Sikhism, but not like Stockton's.
Harinder Randhawa, a 52-year-old hospital dietitian in Vancouver, was touring Gurdwara Sahib earlier this week on a visit to the United States.
"This is our temple," she said. "It's very historic. I feel so proud to walk where the first settlers walked.
"I can see here the fruit of their hard work and suffering and sacrifice. This is our heritage. I can go home and tell my people, 'I saw the history.' "
The Stockton Gurdwara has 5,000 Northern Californians who call it home, even though larger, more elaborate temples have been built in Yuba City, San Jose and El Sobrante.
"There are many reasons," said Bhajan Singh Bhinder, coordinator of the local centennial committee. "The pioneers came here; we had the first settlement; fighting for civil rights in America happened here. The freedom struggle for India began from here. This place is so unique. It deserves the attention it's getting."
Two years ago, organizers started digging more deeply into the temple's past. They discovered journals and ledger books from the early 20th century. College students have spent the summer painstakingly taking photographs of yellow and dog-eared pages written decades ago. They have worked out of a closet-sized room on the temple's back side. The original ledger books are kept inside a safe almost as large as the room itself.
"I wanted to help shape the Sikh identity in America," said 19-year-old volunteer Rajan Gill of Yuba City. The University of California, Davis, senior is a cousin of Lodi's Ricky Gill, who at 25 is running as a Republican for California's 9th Congressional District seat.
The Sikhs, a proud people, celebrate those kinds of relationships - alongside their 100 years of tolerance and faith in America.
"And this is the place where people come to see that," Bhinder said. "It is more important than ever that Americans go to each other's places of worship and homes and celebrations.
"That's the best way to be a united nation."
Beginning this weekend, the local Sikh community is hosting several weeks of activities acknowledging its rich heritage in Stockton.
It starts this morning with a first-of-its-kind conference - "The Sikh Journey in America" - inside the Faye Spanos Concert Hall at the University of the Pacific.
It culminates Oct. 14 with the second day of a two-day grand finale, complete with parade, food, booths and entertainment.
Organizers expect huge crowds from all over Northern California. They've worked hard to commemorate the past on a large scale.
After the academic events are over and the parade crowds have gone home, the Gurdwara Sahib and its members will still congregate on the sacred ground that has been theirs for 100 years.
"Only a few have been here longer than I have," Uppal said. "This is it for me. This is where I will die."