My dad arrived here first.: 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 children attend an assembly, Kollegal, India.
    Tibetan Uprising Day rally, Minnesota State Capitol Building, St. Paul.

    Javascript is required to view this map.

    Essential Question

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

    Push & Pull Factors: Why did this person come to the U.S.?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    When the Chinese invaded Tibet in the 1950s many of the Tibetans fled into Nepal or India to the south.  In these countries there are thriving Tibetan communities that have their own schools, hospitals, and training centers.  Some Tibetans also send their children to private boarding schools like the one in this story.  Woodstock school in Mussoorie, India is a private school in India that has teachers, students, and “dorm parents” from all over the world. 

    The Tibetan Resettlement Project was a program in which immigrant visas were granted to one thousand Tibetans who wanted to come to the U.S. These immigrants were placed in one of twenty two cluster sites around the U.S.  Missoula, Montana was one of these regional centers.  Because there were so few immigrant visas available under the Resettlement Project, it was common for one family member to settle in the United States first, and then it was much easier for this family member to apply for immigrant visas for the rest of his or her family to come to the U.S. at a later date. 

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

    • Chapter 1

    Download Tashi Lhewa 3
    1:56 Minutes | 1.86Mb


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

    DN:  And when did you first find out that you were moving to the United States?
    TL:  That was during my tenth grade and I was told by my mom that we were moving to the U.S. And at the time I had no idea of where American was or — I mean I got my little bits, snippets of information from the movies, but the furthest out of my hometown that I had been was — I hadn’t even been south of Delhi or to even south India pretty much. The only other country I traveled to was Nepal. So somebody telling me I’m going to move exactly halfway around the world was quite a bit of shock. But I had a couple of friends who were from the U.S., a couple of classmates who said that wasn’t such a bad idea.
    DN:  So were you excited and did you share this with your friends at school?
    TL:  I did. I did. At the time I didn’t understand exactly what moving to America would entail. I was seventeen years old and just kind of took in stride. But I talked to a couple of — my dorm parent back then was from Philadelphia and so he was pretty shocked when I told him that I was moving to Montana. Because he thought that was out there in the rural area. But I had no clue. Montana could have been New York to me. 
    DN:  So who came to the United States first from your family?
    TL:  My dad arrived here first and he got here through the thousand program, the resettlement program.  And he got in through a lottery which was for employees of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile who had served for ten years. So he originally arrived here in Montana. He was there for five years after which he managed to file petitions, immigration petitions for us, and at that point we came and we joined him. My mom and my sister and me.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Noun:  Short for dormitory, a building or part of a building which houses students, soldiers, monks, etc., who sleep there and use communal facilities.


    Verb:  To hand-in official papers to an office or person.  (files, filing, filed)

    in stride

    Adverb:  Without disturbing one's course of activities; without emotional upset.


    Noun:  A drawing of lots used to decide something by chance.


    Noun:  A formal, written request made to an official person or organized body, often containing many signatures.


    Noun:  The transportation of a group of people to a new home.


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


    Noun:  Tiny pieces or parts of a larger object or idea.


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access].
    nid: 16