Program Four - Segment Three: Defining American

From 1907 to 1917 a few thousand men and a handful of women from the Punjab area in northern India made their way to North America. The Punjab was a rich agricultural region, but under British rule, many peasant farmers could not pay the high taxes.  A famine from 1899 to 1903 decimated their cattle, and the farmers ended up losing their lands.  There were Hindus and Muslims among those forced to seek their fortunes in America, but most were followers of the Sikh religion. South Asians arrived in a society that first welcomed cheap labor, then excluded each Asian immigrant group in turn. By the early 1920s, Punjabis fleeing discrimination, racism, and religious persecution were looking to settle. They sought somewhere safe, somewhere rural to worship and live in peace. That search played a key role in fighting a legal battle that would represent all Asians in America.


Valarie Kaur and Judge Brar and their family, Professors Jaideep Singh and Bruce LaBrack, David Thind, and New Moon Productions for the use of clips from "Divided We Fall."

Produced by Catherine Stifter and Sara Caswell Kolbet


Defining American Slideshow (opens in new window)


Shasta Taiko was started in 1985 by Russel Hisashi Baba and Jeanne Aiko Mercer, both recognized artists in traditional and contemporary Taiko, new music, and jazz. They have appeared in numerous concerts throughout the west coast and teach Taiko to all ages.

Purchase Spirit Drum CD

Further Internet Resources:


Jensen, Joan.  Passage from India: Asian Immigrants in North America.  1988.

Melendy, H. Brett.  Asians in America: Filipinos, Koreans, and East Indians.  1997.

Takaki, Ronald.  A History of Asian Americans: Strangers From a Different Shore.  Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1998.

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