Indian American

Lost Story of “Citizen Kahn” (from the New Yorker)

Citizen Kahn
Zarif Khan, a.k.a. Hot Tamale Louie, arrived in small-town Wyoming in 1909 and eventually became a local legend.ILLUSTRATION BY OLIVER MUNDAY

Memory is a fickle thing.

“Hot Tamale Louie was the son of nobody knows who, the grandson of nobody knows who, and the great-great-grandson of nobody knows who. He had been selling tamales in Sheridan since Buffalo Bill rode in the town parade, sold them when President Taft came to visit, was still selling them when the Russians sent Sputnik into space and the British sent the Beatles to America.

By then, Louie was a local legend, and his murder shocked everyone.”

How quickly the town forgot that he was Muslim and a cherished neighbor.

For Sikhs in Canada, the Wait is Over


” More than just an isolated “incident”, The Komagata Maru story reflects a deliberate, exclusionary policy of the Canadian government to keep out ethnicities with whom it deemed unfit to enter. These justifications were couched in racist and ethnocentric views of “progress”, “civilization”, and “suitability” which all buttressed the view that Canada should remain a “White Man’s Country”.

On May 23, 1914, a crowded ship from Hong Kong carrying 376 passengers, most being immigrants from Punjab, British India, arrived in Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet on the west coast of the Dominion of Canada.” — — read more about the incident

This event has left a noticeable scar on the Sikh communities living throughout the Pacific Northwest; from British Columbia to Central California.

For others this might seem an obscure and unknown piece of Pacific Northwest History. Students can still be challenged to research the story, analyze the motivations of the Sikhs entering Canada, the Canadian government and other residents, and analyze the news reports of the day. Here are a handful of questions that might help students explore:

  • How exactly did Prime Minister Trudeau come to this decision?
  • What role did Sikh Canadians play in rectifying the legacy created by this racially charged event?
  • Why does it take a nation 102 years to formally apologize for such an action?
  • How has Canada changed since 1914 that would allow for such reconciliation?



Time After Time

Asian and Pacific American History Timeline


If there is one thing we teach here at the Wing Luke Museum– it is that histories are never definitive. We have designed this presentation to highlight some events in the Asian and Pacific American timeline. We should always keep in mind that the details here are as much a part of American History as the suffragettes, abolitionists, civil rights struggle, and sock hops. The image should take any classroom directly to the presentation. To play– click play. Use the right and left arrow keys to navigate the presentation.

This timeline can be used for any grade level.

Revisiting Oak Creek, WI


August 5, 2012 the New York Times reported “In an attack that the police said they were treating as “a domestic terrorist-type incident,” the gunman stalked through the temple around 10:30 a.m. Congregants ran for shelter and barricaded themselves in bathrooms and prayer halls, where they made desperate phone calls and sent anguished texts pleading for help as confusion and fear took hold. Witnesses described a scene of chaos and carnage.”

In the days that followed and in the years that have passed, the Sikh community of Oak Creek, WI and their house of worship have been forever changed. Still expressing a love, and a willingness to pray for all people, the temple ( Gurudwara) has surprisingly taken to closed door worship.

Revisiting the story of Oak Creek just days after the horrific murders at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church is a powerful way to see the tragic and violent ways racism manifests itself in our society. More importantly one could take note on the similarities in the way congregations and respective communities responded to these violent acts.