Living with sponsors: We wanted to stand on our own feet.: Becoming Minnesotan

Wangyal T. Ritzekura, c.2005.
  • Name - Wangyal Ritzekura
  • Age at interview - 52
  • Gender - Male
  • Generation - First Generation American / Immigrant
  • Date of Interview - 08.19.2005
  • Wangyal Ritzekura and family arriving at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport.
    Wangyal Ritzekura with his U.S. Tibetan Resettlement Project sponsors, 2006.


    Essential Question

    Becoming Americans: What does it mean to be an American?

    Assimilation: Does a person have to give up part of his/her culture to become more American?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    In the early 1990s Tibetans began arriving in the U.S. as part of the Tibetan Resettlement Project. The Twin Cities was one of only twenty two cluster sites in the U.S. that hosted these Tibetan people.  Each Tibetan immigrant came to the U.S. only if they had  an American sponsor  who would help them find work and housing, and host them as they adjusted to life in the U.S.  If these sponsors lived far away from one another, the Tibetans often felt isolated with no car and limited knowledge of English or access to buses. 

    The first few months were the most challenging because each immigrant often felt completely alone. They missed their families back in Asia and were not able to frequently visit the other Tibetans living nearby in the U.S. 

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

    • Chapter 1

    Download Wangyal Ritzekura 5
    2:13 Minutes | 2.13Mb


    Narrator: Wangyal Ritzekura (WR)

    Interviewer: Charles Lenz (CL)

    CL:  What was that like when you finally arrived in Minnesota and you were getting off the plane? Can you talk a little bit about the emotions of it as it was there?

    WR:  Well, when we landed at the airport, you know, there was a group of Tibetans welcoming us with tea and snacks and they even sang a song for us. And I, assuming the leadership of the group, you know, who came together, also thanked them for all that they have done to us. Then we all separated to our host families and my host family was in Stillwater. Well, it was very tough. It was very tough. From South India to North India how many times I had gone there for meetings, for conferences, for two weeks or sometimes twenty days.

    But then coming from India to the United States was totally different. And it was all because of the thinking. I really felt for the first time that I was away from my family and I really missed them so much. I still remember the time when Khedup wrote me his first letter and I read the letter and it just wept myself. It was just terrible. It was...well, we all went every year to India. India for vacation. Every year. During winter. We went to India. So it was very tough. Very challenging.
    But then the people over here were very supportive and another thing is that we all after three months stayed with the host families. We made the condition that we’d come out. Because we wanted to stand on our own feet and when we moved out then you chose your roommates. You know, your [sounds like 'tapsangs'] in Tibetan, who live together and we lived together. So we were four friends. We just chose ourselves. So I was with three other friends and it was good. Although your family is far away. You are with a group of people with whom you share a lot of common things.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Verb:  1. To suppose to be true, especially without proof.  2. To take on a position or duty.  (assumes, assuming, assumed)


    Noun:  1. A requirement or need, or a limitation.  2. A state or quality.


    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)


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access].
    nid: 25