The importance of family.: 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
  • Women at a Somali wedding, Minneapolis, July 2004. Minnesota Historical Society.
    In line for food at a graduation party, Brian Coyle Community Center.

    We Are Here

    Community, Family, Somali

    Essential Question

    We Are Here: What does it mean to this immigrant group to be here in America?

    Cultural Preservation: How does a person weave his or her traditional culture into a new American identity?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    In Somalia, extended families are normally very close. In fact, it is common for grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles, and cousins to all live together in the same house and become very involved in each other’s lives. The extended family members provide support for one another during good times and bad times.  However, in the U.S. many families have been broken up; some members have immigrated to the U.S. and some have stayed in East Africa.  The extended family networks that are so important in Somali society may not exist in the U.S.  Often both parents are working outside the home, so there is no one home during the day to care for the small children or the elderly relatives. 

    This separation from family members is one thing that many Somalis immigrants struggle with, and they try to stay connected with their families and communities in several ways.  Somalis in the U.S. often try to help family members in Somalia or in refugee camps by sending money.  Many Somalis use money transfer agencies called hawala to send money back to their families that are struggling in Somalia, Kenya, or Ethiopia.  Somalis have also tended to move to particular cities and neighborhoods to be closer together.  The Cedar Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis is home to many Somalis, and it may be easier in this smaller community to maintain the Muslim faith, and Somali language and culture. 

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

    • Chapter 1

    Download Abdisalam Adam 9
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    Narrator: Abdisalam Adam (AA)

    AA:  Family values is also very important. We still practice extended family system with large families, many children, and people helping each other. The Somalis who are here generally support somebody back in their country. That’s one positive value of the Somali people, that you stand for your people even though you’re not obliged to, but it’s just part of that system of support and help and relying on one another and supporting one another that we are practicing. So that is very important. It’s hard for many people to survive. I mean, many people would not have survived had it not been money coming from outside or their relatives helping them, sponsoring them, and supporting them. These family values also are very important.

    There are some neighborhoods that Somalis kind of all live around and are close to each other, so when they need child care, they take to their neighbor or their cousin or aunt or somewhere, like in Cedar Riverside, 12th, 47th, St. Anthony, this high-rise building. In these places, they are being close to each other and supporting one another and keeping in contact with one another, speaking the language together, sharing their food, borrowing utensils from one another.

    All this, it's a way of maintaining their values and culture.

    Another one is the kids going to Dugsi [Academy]. On the weekends, on Saturday and Sunday, many of our children go to Dugsi to learn about the Islamic values and, also, Somali values. That, also, is a system that is trying to give the children to learn the Koran and to learn about their faith and practice it and continue practicing.

    Related Glossary Terms


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

    extended family

    Noun:  A family consisting of parents and children, along with either grandparents, grandchildren, aunts or uncles, etc.


    Adjective:  Pertaining to the religion of Islam, a monotheistic religion that originated with the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad having the same roots as Christianity and Judaism.

    Koran (Quran)

    Noun:  The central religious text of the Islamic faith.


    Adjective:  Required; duty-bound.


    Noun:  1. A customary action, habit, or behavior; a manner or routine.  2. The observance of religious duties which a church requires of its members.

    Verb:   To perform or observe in a habitual fashion.  (practices, practicing, practiced)


    Noun:  A person or organization that is responsible for another person or organization, especially legally or financially.

    Verb:  To take responsibilty for or vouch for another person.  (sponsors, sponsoring, sponsored)


    Noun:  The quality that makes something desirable or valuable; the degree of importance one gives to something. 

    Verb:  To regard highly; think much of; place importance upon.  (values, valuing, valued)


    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].
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