Minnesota Immigrant Oral Histories


Teenagers at Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis to celebrate the birthday of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, 1998. MNHS Photo Collection.

In 1950 the People's Liberation Army of China invaded neighboring Tibet, located in a mountainous region of central Asia. Tibetan attempts to resist the Chinese forces culminated in a popular National Uprising in March 1959. In the midst of this uprising His Holiness the Dalai Lama and over 80,000 of his fellow Tibetans managed to escape to neighboring countries, mainly India and Nepal, where they have lived as exiles.

Tibetan exiles from India and Nepal began to arrive in the United States in 1992 as part of the U.S. Tibetan Resettlement Project, a program that became effective under the 1990 Immigration Act passed by Congress. Under this program, 1,000 Tibetans obtained visas and were sent to resettle in 22 cluster sites in the United States; the Twin Cities became the largest site, with 160 Tibetans resettled there. Thupten Dadak, a Tibetan already living in Minnesota, and other volunteers arranged host families and jobs for the immigrants, which were both required to be eligible for resettlement. Under this program, only one member in a family could apply for a visa to come to the United States; the rest of the family could join the original member after three years, when he or she was settled and able to financially support the new arrivals. As of 2005 there were over 1,300 Tibetans living in Minnesota.

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