Finding work and loneliness in a new country.: Becoming Minnesotan

Yangchen Dolkar, c.2005.
  • Name - Yangchen Dolkar
  • Age at interview - 55
  • Gender - Female
  • Generation - First Generation American / Immigrant
  • Date of Interview - 08.26.2005
  • Tibetan Buddha, March 29, 2004.  Photo courtesy Wangyal Ritzekura.
    Tara, a Tibetan Buddhist deity, March 29, 2004.


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    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

    When Tibetans started fleeing Tibet, beginning in the 1950’s, they settled mostly in refugee camps or Tibetan communities that had been established in Nepal and India.  Some also applied for an immigrant visa to come to the U.S. As part of the Tibetan Resettlement Program,  each person was given  an American sponsor  who would help the immigrant to find work and housing, and host him or her adjust to life in the U.S. 

    Often the Tibetans felt isolated in their host families communities—separated from other Tibetans because of a lack of transportation, money, or time.  As in other times of hardship, these Tibetans turned to their Buddhist faith, praying to their god Buddha and to their spiritual leader, His Holiness the Dalai Lama the 14th. 

    There were only two Tibetans living in Minnesota before the Tibetan Resettlement Project was established in 1990.  Thupten Dadak was one of them.  He and his American wife Tara were instrumental in helping to find sponsors and jobs so that 160 Tibetans could come to the Twin Cities.   

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

    • Chapter 1
    • Chapter 2

    Download Yangchen Dolkar 5
    1:14 Minutes | 1.19Mb


    Note: Original interview was conducted in Tibetan.  Excerpt is read in English by Tsering Dolma.

    Narrator: Yangchen Dolkar (YD)

    Interviewer: Tenzin Yangdon (TY)

    TY:  Once you arrived here in Minnesota, did you feel sad thinking of the family you had left behind?

    YD:  When I first left Nepal, I didn’t feel that very much. But once I had arrived here, after sometime I felt sad as I did not know the language, the directions. I could not talk to the sponsors. I missed family very much. I faced great hardships.

    Later it became quite ok. I recalled the audience we had with His Holiness who so kindly gave each of us an idol of Lord Buddha and asked us to pray to Buddha when faced with problems. I prayed to Buddha and gained strength.

    I was with no job for twenty-five days. Sponsor gave me a job for two months. After two months, the sponsor took me to a tailor shop but I didn’t know sewing. I stayed there for an hour and called Thupten Dadak to get me. I stayed at Thupten Dadak’s house for one month free. Then Thupten Dadak ran up and down and managed to get a housekeeping job. That was in St. Louis Park, pretty far away. I worked very hard. I had to make seventeen rooms. Thinking that if I lost that job, I would not get one, I worked very hard at times weeping. 

    Continues in Chapter 2

    Download Yangchen Dolkar 6
    1:8 Minutes | 1.08Mb


    Note: Original interview was conducted in Tibetan.  Excerpt is read in English by Tsering Dolma.

    Narrator: Yangchen Dolkar (YD)

    Interviewer: Tenzin Yangdon (TY)

    YD:  When we first came from Nepal, we were thirty-five Tibetans together.

    TY:  Did you all come together?

    YD:  Yes, we all came in one airplane. We went to a couple of places and the number of Tibetans who came to Minnesota was five.

    TY: When you lived with the sponsor, did you find any similarities between their lifestyle and your lifestyle?

    YD:  We were two Tibetans at the sponsor’s house. The other Tibetan named Tsering Dolkar is from India. The next day of my arrival, my sponsor asked me to stay with Tsering Dolkar; probably to take rest. And the next day, she went to work, but I had to stay twenty-five days with no work. I just waited. Every car coming, I thought, was coming to see me. If I went one side, there was water and if I looked the other side, there was an old house. There was plenty of food but like other Tibetans I waited for the sponsor to tell me to eat food, which never happened. So till Tsering Dolkar came, I ate nothing. Every time they came, I wept. When they left, I quietly cried. Remembering children, I cried. 

    Related Glossary Terms


    Noun:  A formal meeting with a state or religious dignitary.


    Noun:  A spiritual teacher from ancient India and the founder of Buddhism.


    Noun:  Difficulty or trouble; hard times.

    His Holiness

    A title given to the Dalai  Lama, the supreme head of Tibetan Buddhism and spritual leader of the Tibetan people.


    Noun:  An image or representation of anything that is revered, or believed to convey spiritual power.


    Noun:  The way a person lives that reflects their personal values.


    Verb:  To remember; to recollect.  (recalls, recalling, recalled)


    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: 157