Mrs. Norma Saikhon, chair of the East Indian Gallery at the Imperial Valley Historical Society, was our guest speaker during our November Woman’s Club meeting. The program, entitled – In Search of the Promise of America: History and Heritage of East Indians in Imperial Valley, brought a large measure of social awareness to the people attending the
Men from India’s Punjab province were among the earliest settlers in the Imperial Valley. As pioneers, they faced hardships and discrimination, such as U.S. legislation not allowing them to become citizens or own property. Despite this, being hard workers, they flourished, and their descendants now form an integral part of the fabric of the Imperial Valley. Case in point, is Mrs. Saikhon herself.
Her father, Mr. Mota Singh, settled in the Imperial Valley back in the 1920’s, giving her — through word of mouth — second-hand knowledge of what the conditions were like back in those early years in the United States.
Here in the Valley, with a few exceptions, the Punjabis got along well with the farmers of the Imperial Valley. This was especially true if they settled in one place and farmed land. This gave the farmers the opportunity to get to know them, forming bonds. An interesting fact: a special relationship developed between Punjabis and the Swiss of the Imperial Valley. What was the attraction? Answer – wrestling.
With the passing of the Luce-Celler Bill in 1947, they were finally allowed to become naturalized citizens and to own property. Despite this overview, there is so much more to learn about their history. For something other than just a rough outline, we encourage you to visit the Pioneers Park Museum at 373 E. Aten Road in Imperial, CA.
The Woman’s Club of Holtville thanks Mrs. Norma Saikhon for her interesting and knowledgeable presentation.
Marcia R. Jennings
Publicity Chair for Woman’s Club of Holtville