Originally Published In
Sikh Gadar Lehar 1907-1918. Anaheim, CA: Shri Guru Sahib Foundation.
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Introduction: Historians have emphasized various factors and aspects of the attacks depending on their perspectives and theoretical persuasions, including labor strife, racial supremacist ideology, fears due to socio-cultural differences, and reaction to nationalism and radicalism. More recently, historians have the paid particular attention to the legal and political implications and results on a national level on both sides of the US.-Canadian border.1 Through my study of Asian immigration in the Northwest region and Bellingham in particular, I have concluded that there was a concerted effort to harass the Punjabi Sikhs and arouse popular animosity that began a full year before the 1907 riot. In this paper, I focus first on the local and historical context going back to the first arrivals and reactions in the community, second, how the Bellingham riot and other attacks were portrayed in the press and how various individuals and groups responded at the local level; and conclude with a brief account of the second wave of immigration and the establishment of the Sikh community more recently in Whatcom County. The basic events of the Bellingham riot of 1907 have been commonly described in many histories of Asian Americans and especially in accounts of South Asian and Sikh migration. Less familiar to many is how the Bellingham riot was part of a series of incidents of hostilities against Sikhs and other Punjabi immigrants in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. and British Columbia, and the part the riots played in the politics of Asian exclusion and the deprivation of rights of Asian immigrants.