The Wing



Sikh Community Exhibition

Know this world to be transient like a dream, a stage in which we act and depart, nothing in it is true and lasting besides the light of God.
– Guru Nanak Dev Ji 

Sikh. Seek? Sike? Sick?
Photo courtesy of Singh Dhillon

Even in a city as cosmopolitan as Seattle, it’s hard to find anyone who can pronounce the word correctly, let alone find someone who is knowledgeable about the world’s fifth largest organized religion, Sikhism, or its followers, Sikhs (pronounced “siks,” and usually mispronounced as “seeks”). Today, 26 million people worldwide identify themselves as Sikhs. A half million Sikhs live in the United States, and about an equal number in Canada.

Approximately 20,000 Sikhs live in greater Seattle. Yet if you mention that Sikhs wear turbans and have beards, you’re more than likely to hear someone casually mention, “Oh you mean like Arabs?” and even an occasional, “Like Osama bin Laden and those terrorists from the Taliban?”

But Sikhs aren’t Arab nor are they terrorists nor are they part of the Taliban. In fact, our region’s own Sikh community traces its start back over a century ago, back when the city was just growing from its logging town roots and McKinley was president. Since that time, Sikhs have made and continue to make positive contributions to the Pacific Northwest, in ways as varied as their presence in our area – from professionals leading technology companies to youth influencing hip-hop culture with bhangra music. To understand the story of the Sikh community in the Pacific Northwest is to find a perspective where the spiritual and worldly matters of life converge.

Granville at West Hastings - Sikh men dressed in dapper suits cross Granville Street at West Hastings in Vancouver, British Columbia, 1908. Over 5,000 Sikhs had come to Canada by this time. Photo from Vancouver Public Library #5236
Three Women in Canada Mill Town - Most of the first Sikh immigrants found work in lumber mills throughout the Pacific Northwest. Canada’s largest mill community, Fraser Mills in New Westminster, had between 200 and 300 Sikhs living and working there in 1925. Here, Sikh women stand in front of company houses at the mill. Photo courtesy of Mike Ghuman
Children at Renton Gurdwara - Classes are held in the Gurdwara to teach Gurmukhi script, Gurbani (Scriptures) and Sikh History. Here are children from one such class held every Sunday at the Gurdwara Singh Sabha of Washington in Renton. Photo courtesy of Jasbir Kaur
Family at Renton Gurdwara - A Sikh Family at the Gurdwara Singh Sabha of Washington in Renton. Photo from The Wing Collection

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