I heard that Minnesota is a state that’s very welcoming.: Becoming Minnesotan

Abdisalam Adam, displaying Somali objects and books, 2004.
  • Name - Abdisalam Adam
  • Age at interview - 38
  • Gender - Male
  • Generation - First Generation American / Immigrant
  • Date of Interview - 06.24.2004
  • Somali Independence Day, Minneapolis, June 27, 2004.
    Somali Independence Day, Minneapolis, June 27, 2004.  Minnesota Historical Socie

    The Journey

    Community, Somali, Travel to U.S.

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    Essential Question

    Coming to America: What did coming to America symbolize for this person?

    The Journey: How did this person get to the U.S.?

    Words to look for

    refugee camp

    Background Information

    After the civil war broke out in Somalia in 1991 many refugees fled from Somalia into the neighboring countries of Kenya and Ethiopia where they lived in refugee camps. Starting in 1992, the U.S. began welcoming Somali refugees and placing them in cities throughout the U.S.  Minnesota has earned a reputation amongst Somalis for having jobs and educational opportunities, as well as a large and active Somali community. For this reason, thousands of Somalis who originally settled in other parts of the U.S. have now relocated to Minnesota.

    To learn more about Somali history and culture, visit our Somali Community page.

    • Chapter 1

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    Narrator: Abdisalam Adam (AA)

    Interviewer: Sumaya Yusuf (SY)

    SY:  What were your expectations in Minnesota and what is Minnesota really like?

    AA:  Of course, when I was in the Washington, D.C. area, I used to hear about Minnesota as a very cold state, the snow and the ice. That experience I heard about before coming. But, also, I heard that it’s a state that’s very welcoming. Its people are friendly. It has good education. It has very understanding people who, you know, are tolerant of other cultures and values and so on. When I came here, I did find all that to be true. We all did witness when the Somali community came here, how Minnesota received them with open arms. There was help in the school system. There was help with housing. People were able to find jobs.

    So the question that people always ask us is, “Why did the Somalis choose Minnesota?” What happened was when the people in the refugee camps heard about early arrivals came here and they were well received, they reported back to their relatives that this place welcomes you and you can find jobs and you can find school. So that’s how the word spread and Somalis are an oral society, as we know. Things spread by word of mouth. Then people started coming. In the refugee camps they knew about Minneapolis, St. Paul, names of places. So this attracted more Somalis to come. Then people in other states, like myself, also started moving. I told earlier I wasn’t living here. I was in Washington, D.C. Then I moved to this state. So that also, many of our immigrants, what's called secondary immigrants, come from other states in the United States.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Noun:  A group of people who share a common understanding of the same language, manners, tradition and law.


    Noun:  The arts, customs, and habits that characterize a particular society or nation.


    Noun:  The act or state of expecting or looking forward to an event as about to happen; that which is expected or looked for; the prospect of the future.


    Noun:  1. Participation in events, leading to knowledge, opinons, or skills.  2. The knowledge thus gathered.


    Noun:  A person who comes to a country to permanently settle from another country.


    Adjective:  Spoken rather than written.

    refugee camp

    Noun:  A temporary settlement where those fleeing political persecution, war, or natural disaster can live before returning home or permanently resettling elsewhere.


    Adjective:  Tending to permit, allow, understand, or accept something.


    Noun:  A collection of guiding, usually positive principles; what one deems to be correct and desirable in life, especially regarding personal conduct.


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access]. http://www.mnhs.org/immigration
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