People

Hari Singh Everest Portrait
Professor Hari Singh Everest’s voluminous and insightful writings, diaries, drawings, and photographs form the most extensive private collection in the archive.  This collection alone represents an important contribution to South Asian American history and American history more broadly.

The history books documenting the history of Punjabi pioneers in California do not fully capture the fascinating life stories of the Punjabi pioneers.  Historical accounts of the South Asian pioneers are based primarily on government and legal records.  In contrast, the archive offers a platform for Punjabi Americans to tell their own life stories through interviews, speeches, photographs, letters and diaries.  Whenever possible, the life histories were written collaboratively with the individuals and families.  There are extraordinary stories about the emotional and material hardships experienced families who were separated for decades due to the exclusionary US immigration policies; the ways the early pioneers eventually moved up the economic ladder despite tremendous obstacles; and the remarkable contributions of Punjabi Americans in recent decades.  Together these narratives greatly enrich our understanding of the collective history of Punjabi Americans in California. 

The people featured in the archive represent important aspects of the history of Punjabi Americans in California, including the perseverance of the early pioneers, the experiences of the few women who arrived from the Punjab before World War II and the complex family histories that connect to the British Empire in Africa, Fiji, and elsewhere around the world.  The Archive also documents the unique Punjabi Mexican community.  The biographies are arranged into three chronological periods — 1) pioneers who arrived in the early twentieth century, 2) farmers who came to Yuba City in the immediate post-war era, and 3) professionals who have made influential contributions to literature, education, medicine, and science in California from the 1950s to the present.   There are many important historical figures in the Punjabi American community who are not featured in the archive yet.  In the future, the archive will expand the archive to reflect the greater religious, regional, generational, and class diversity within the Punjabi American community. 

These biographies illuminate the richness of the Punjabi American experience in California’s Sacramento Valley, but they also tell a universal story about the struggle for survival amidst great obstacles and the perseverance of the human spirit.  By bringing these individuals and families to life, the Archive aims to create a portal towards a greater empathy for people from unfamiliar religious and cultural backgrounds and ultimately a deeper understanding of our shared humanity.