We were sent to the United States to speak about the story of Tibet.: 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
  • Minnesota Tibetan delegation with Senator Paul Wellstone, 1990s.
    Minnesota Tibetan delegation with Congressman Martin Sabo, April 28, 2003.

    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

    Many Tibetan people have fled Tibet since the Chinese invaded in the 1950’s.  Those Tibetans who stayed faced persecution by the Chinese, and were forced to give up many of their Tibetan traditions and to be part of Chinese culture.  Those who have fled face hardships living in refugee camps in India and Nepal.  All Tibetans face the sad fact that they will not ever be able to return to their homeland as long as it is controlled by the Chinese. 

    Thus, Tibetan refugees have spent 50 years trying to educate people all over the world about the plight of the Tibetan people and to advocate for more autonomy from the Chinese.  The United States has officially recognized Tibet as part of China, but has also made efforts to help the Tibetans who fled.

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

    • Chapter 1

    Download Wangyal Ritzekura 3
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    Narrator: Wangyal Ritzekura (WR)

    WR:  Now we were sent to the United States with a reason and the reason was there could be many reasons. The most important reason was to speak to the American public about the story of Tibet, the real truth that a Tibet, a sovereign independent country for centuries was attacked and occupied. This thing did not go out very far and wide. Minnesotans didn’t know a lot about Tibet until we came over here. So that was the responsibility given to us and we did that job very good. Very good.
    I remember the meeting with Paul Wellstone. We, a small delegation of people, went to see him. Time given was forty-five minutes and we had our own, you know, little bit of...who are the ones going to speak and we had one Tibetan woman who was to narrate her experiences under the Chinese government and she was given only eight minutes and I was the interpreter and as she was exceeding eight minutes I just hinted to stop and Paul Wellstone sitting right over here said [in a whisper], “No, no, no, no, no. Let her continue.”
    So that’s the job that we were supposed to be doing. We were sent to do. And we did it very good in Minnesota. Paul Wellstone, Martin Sabo. We met all these people and talked about the issue of Tibet.
    Yes. So we, you know, we did our responsibility. We did our share now. Now today in our area most of the Americans would know that Tibet was independent and invaded and occupied. Look at our culture! Look at everything! We are very distinct from the Chinese.
    In the eyes of the U.S. government Tibet is a part of China but then a resolution was passed in U.S. Congress to the effect that Tibet is an occupied land. So there’s the, you know, the world stand. U.S. government and Congress represents...that represents the people. But then how much will this change as a result of this we have to wait and see.

    Related Glossary Terms


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


    Noun:  A group of people who represent the interests of a larger group.


    Adjective:  Noticeably different; different from one another.


    Verb: To go beyond; to surpass.  (exceeds, exceeding, exceeded)


    Noun:  1. Participation in events, leading to knowledge, opinons, or skills.  2. The knowledge thus gathered.


    Verb:  To enter by force in order to conquer.  (invades, invading, invaded)


    Noun:  Debate; controversy; problem.


    Verb:  To tell a story or series of events by speech or writing.  (narrates, narrating, narrated)


    Adjective:  Subjugated, under the control of a foreign military presence.


    Verb:  1. To conquor somewhere.  2. To live or reside.  (occupies, occupying, occupied)


    Noun:  A formal statement adopted by a group of people.


    Adjective:  Exercizing power of rule; ruling or self-ruling.


    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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