When I was growing up, I was a shepherd.: 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
  • Camels, Somalia.  Photo courtesy Abdisalam Adam.

    Class & Work


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    Essential Question

    Life in the Old Country: What makes a country a person’s homeland?

    Class & Work: How important is work in defining a person’s identity?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    Somalia was colonized and divided into five parts by the British and Italians beginning in the 1880s. After World War II, Great Britain gained control of a consolidated country, including a region called Ogaden to the west that formerly belonged to Ethiopia. This was short-lived, and by 1948, the British had returned the Ogaden region to Ethiopia. A war was fought between Somalia and Ethiopia in 1977-78 in which Ethiopia ultimately kept control of the Ogaden. To this day there are occasional armed conflicts over this land. The vast majority of Somalis were subsistence farmers, or shepherd, who tended their animals and grew what crops they could to feed their families.

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

    • Chapter 1

    Download Abdisalam Adam 2
    0:51 Minutes | 0.82Mb


    Narrator: Abdisalam Adam (AA)

    Interviewer: Sumaya Yusuf (SY)

    SY:  Where were you born?

    AA:  I was born in a village in the western part of Somalia near the town of Dhagahbur. That’s the closest town to the place where I was born.

    SY:  What was it like in Somalia when you grew up?

    AA:  I grew up in what's known as the Ethiopian part of Somalia. In my childhood, I grew up pretty much the country life in Somalia, a pastoral life. We moved from place to place. We had lots of camels and cows and sheep, so when I was growing up, I was a shepherd. I used to look after the sheep and the baby camels. It was very much a typical pastoral country life in Somalia that I grew up in.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Adjective:  Relating to shepherds or rural life.


    Noun:  Someone who looks after sheep or other animals.


    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
    nid: 518