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Mar 07 2019

The first significant wave of Indian immigrants entered the United States in the 19th Century. By 1900, there were more than two thousand Indian Sikhs living in the United States, primarily in California. (At least one scholar has set the level lower, finding a total of 716 Indian immigrants to the U. S. between 1820 and 1900. ) Emigration from India was driven by difficulties facing Indian farmers, including the challenges posed by the British land tenure system for small landowners, and by drought and food shortages, which worsened in the 1890s. At the same time, Canadian steamship companies, acting on behalf of Pacific coast employers, recruited Sikh farmers with economic opportunities in British Columbia. Racist attacks in British Columbia, however, prompted Sikhs and new Sikh immigrants to move down the Pacific Coast to Washington and Oregon, where they worked in lumber mills and in the railroad industry. Many Punjabi Sikhs who settled in California, around the Yuba City area, formed close ties with Mexican Americans. The presence of Indian-Americans also helped develop interest in Eastern religions in the US and would result in its influence on American philosophies such as Transcendentalism. Swami Vivekananda arriving in Chicago at the World’s Fair led to the establishment of the Vedanta Society.

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