I knew that there was a lot more to the U.S. than Missoula, Montana.: Becoming Minnesotan

Tashi Lhewa, c.2005.
  • Name - Tashi Lhewa
  • Age at interview - 24
  • Gender - Male
  • Generation - First Generation American / Immigrant
  • Date of Interview - 08.28.2005
  • Tibetan American families camping in Minnesota, August 12, 2005.

    The Journey

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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


    Background Information

    In 1990s the U.S. government offered a small number of immigrant visas to Tibetans who wanted to come to the U.S.  Because there were so few visas available, it was common for one family member to settle in the United States first and then apply to bring the rest of his family to come to the U.S. at a later date.

    When the Tibetan immigrants were granted a visa they were expected to have an American sponsor, someone who would help them find work and housing and host them as they adjusted to life in the U.S. 

    Once they were in the United States, many moved around until they found a community where they felt most at home.  Sometimes they would even find other families whom they had known from living in the same refugee camp or Tibetan settlement in India, like Mussoorie.

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

    • Chapter 1

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    Narrator: Tashi Lhewa (TL)
    Interviewer: Dorjee Norbu (DN)

    DN:  And so when did you first learn that your family — or why did your family decide to move to Minnesota?
    TL:  It wasn’t exactly a personal choice. My dad had moved here. He’d been resettled here. The Tibetan resettlement program places Tibetans strategically in different areas across the U.S. and my dad’s sponsor resided in Montana and so we came there. Montana is a beautiful place, especially western Montana where we resided. There’s a lot of outdoors activities that one could do. It is rural. If you’re out looking for some urban fun you’re not likely to find it but overall it is a beautiful place. Fantastic weather as well. 
    DN:  And when did your family decide to move to Minnesota?
    TL:  My family decided to move to Minnesota after I believe it was my mom who — well, we only had approximately — in the entire state of Montana there must have been around eight, nine families maximum. Though the vast majority of them, like around six of them, lived in Missoula. It was still a very small group and my mom was feeling kind of homesick at that time and so she decided that—and seeing that we had heard that Minnesota has one of the largest populations in the U.S. of Tibetans, it was something that she wanted to do. So she initially moved there while my dad was trying to sell the house and wrap up things in Montana. My sister followed after that. And subsequently, a year later, me and my dad.  We finally moved all to Minnesota.
    DN:  You said that the community was much smaller in Montana, the Tibetan community, so did you like do gatherings together or how was that?
    TL:  We did do the gatherings. That’s one thing that we were pretty proud of. 
    DN:  Did you personally want to move again? I mean you had just moved from India to Montana. What was your reaction on moving again to Minnesota?
    TL:  It was difficult in some ways, as I had just started to make new friends there in high school. On the other hand I knew that there was a lot more to the U.S. than Missoula, Montana. And so I knew that there were better opportunities for me outside of the state.  So on the one hand I was sad to leave the state that I had grown to enjoy over the two years but on the other hand I knew that there were more opportunities elsewhere in the U.S.
    DN:  And when you first reached Minnesota what was your initial reaction to the Tibetan community here?
    TL:  Well, I knew a couple of families here. There are a lot of Tibetans here who were formerly from Mussoorie so that there were a lot of familiar faces as well and I had relatives here. My uncle and aunt who resided here as well who also came here on the resettlement program. So the adjustment wasn’t as difficult but I think I got another sense of — a completely new sense of America when I came to Minnesota, which was very different from Montana.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Noun:  Change, correction, modification.


    Adverb:  About, loosely, roughly, close to.


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


    Adverb:  At the beginning.


    Noun:  A chance for advancement, progress, or profit.


    Verb:  To establish a home in a different place.  (resettles, resettling, resettled)


    Verb:  To live (somewhere).  (resides, residing, resided)


    Adjective:  Related to less-populated, non-urban areas.


    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)


    Adverb:  In a planned manner, attempting to achieve a specific goal.


    Adverb:  Following, afterwards in either time or place.


    Adjective:  Characteristic of city life.


    Adjective:  Very great in size, amount, degree, intensity, or especially extent.


    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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