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America’s ‘Little Punjab’: Yuba City

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In the Yuba-Sutter area, more than 12 percent of the population traces roots to India, especially to Punjab.

(Courtesy of Punjabi American Heritage Society.)

The Yuba-Sutter area in California was among the first destinations for early Indian migrants in the United States. In the early 20th century, a significant number of these migrants to this region were from one particular state in India: Punjab.

Formally known as the Yuba City metropolitan statistical area, the Yuba-Sutter area includes Yuba and Sutter counties. The largest city in this area is the Yuba City.

These North-California counties are home to a sizable Indian American population. The estimated total population of the Yuba-Sutter area was 170,955 in 2015, according to the United States Census Bureau. Of this, approximately more than 12 percent traces roots to India, especially to Punjab. In Yuba City, Asian population was more than 17 percent in 2010. According to multiple media reports, the city has the biggest concentration of Punjabis in the United States.

In addition, Stockton, which is about 82 miles from Sutter County, is home to the first Indian temple in the country.  “Our religious history in the United States started with the first Sikh arriving into this land of opportunity, but it really began in 1912 with the establishment of the Stockton gurdwara,” Dr. Gulzar S. Johl wrote in his book on Sikh history, The Sikh Religion: What was taught vs. What we do today.

Every year the area witnesses a Sikh parade, Nagar Kirtan, organized by the local community leaders. This parade is considered to be the largest gathering of Sikhs outside India. Punjabis from India, Canada, and the United States converge to Yuba City to participate in the preparation, parade and the langar (free buffet-style food) for the attendees. More than 100,000 people attend the event.

Just last year, in July, the Elk Grove City Council announced to name a new park Singh and Kaur Park, in honor of the Sikh community and to commemorate two Indian American residents, Gurmej Singh Atwal and Surinder Singh, who were killed in an apparent hate crime attack in 2011. Singh and Kaur are common surnames for men and women, respectively, in Sikh religion.  Elk Grove is about 58 miles from the Yuba city.

The Indian American community was lauded recently when the local Temples offered food and temporary shelter to the evacuees in the wake of flooding near Oroville Dam.

(This post was updated August 11, 2017.)

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