Who Are Sikh Americans
- Sikh Americans have been in the US for over 120 years.
- There are approximately 700,000 Sikhs in the US.
- Sikhism is an independent faith and the world’s fifth largest religion
- Signifying their commitment to their faith, Sikhs do not cut their hair, and cover their heads with turbans.
- Sikhs believe in one God, equality among all, freedom of religion, and community service.
Guru Nanak Dev Ji founded Sikhism in the 15th century in what is modern day India with a simple message: that there is one Divine for all of creation, a loving, formless, Creator recognizable by all through meditation and service of humanity. This message of love of the Divine and equality amongst all of the creation, regardless of race, religion, gender, or background, was carried on by nine successor Gurus and is enshrined in the scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib Ji.
Observant Sikhs are distinguished by their articles of faith, formalized with the creation of the Khalsa in 1699. These articles of faith, kept by men and women, include kesh (uncut hair), covered by a turban, kara (a steel bracelet), kirpan (a religious sword), kachha (undershorts), and kanga (a comb). These articles of faith represent a Sikh’s commitment to equality, service, and justice.
The over 25 million Sikhs worldwide are followers of an independent, distinct faith. It is the world’s fifth largest religion.
Sikhs are defined their belief in one God, equality, justice, and community. They are taught to live their values every day through the principles of worship, work, and service.
If you visit a gurdwara (house of worship) you will see the Sikh spirit and values in action. Everyone, regardless of background, is welcome to partake in the worship and langar (free kitchen), where they are served by their fellow worshippers in an act of equality, humility, and service.
The first Sikhs came to the United States in the 1890s to work in the lumber mills of the Pacific Northwest, in the farms of California, and to build the railroads that would connect America. Despite violence designed to keep them from making the U.S. their home, in 1912, the first gurdwara was established in Stockton, California, and it continues to operate today.
Sikh American pioneers tried to help their country fulfill its promise of equality and opportunity for all who call it home. In 1923, Bhagat Singh Thind, a World War I veteran, went to the Supreme Court to challenge laws that prevented Asians from becoming citizens. Following in his footsteps as a Sikh American pioneer, in 1957, Dalip Singh Saund became the first Asian Pacific American and first Sikh American to serve in the US Congress.
Today, there are an estimated 700,000 Sikhs in the United States with gurdwaras across the country. Despite their long history and contributions to the U.S., Sikh Americans have been the targets of discrimination, particularly following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Balbir Singh Sodhi was shot and killed because of his articles of faith, making him the first victim of a fatal post-9/11 hate crime. On August 5, 2012, six worshippers were killed in an attack at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, the deadliest attack on an American house of worship since the 1963 attack on the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.