Bellingham’s Sikh community history discussed at museum

This studio photograph of Sikh men was taken circa 1907 by Henry Brown and is in the Whatcom Museum collection.
This studio photograph of Sikh men was taken circa 1907 by Henry Brown and is in the Whatcom Museum collection. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

The Whatcom County Historical Society will discuss the Sikh community’s history in Whatcom County and the efforts to commemorate that history at its monthly presentation.

Satpal Sidhu and Paul Englesberg will lead a presentation from 7:30-9 p.m., Thursday, March 8 in the Rotunda Room of the Whatcom Museum’s Old City Hall, 121 Prospect St.

The event will cover the arrival of the Sikh community, as well as other South Asian people, to Whatcom County between the 1880s and through the 1940s. The topic will look at how these immigrants built a life and found work, as well as the discrimination they faced as they were pushed out of the area. Sidhu and Englesberg will also discuss the efforts that have been undertaken to reconcile the violent past that many immigrants faced.

The event also seeks to dispel rumors and misconceptions that surround immigrants from South Asia and explain why they came to this area.

The two speakers have a wealth of knowledge to share. Sidhu has been representing the Sikh community for decades as a Whatcom County Council member and local business owner. Englesberg, a professor of education and local historian, has extensively studied Asian immigration to the Pacific Northwest.

Both men are involved in the planned installation of the Arch of Healing and Reconciliation monument, which will be installed later this year in front of Bellingham’s City Hall on Lottie Street, and honors the immigrants that arrived to the Pacific Northwest from China, India and Japan. Sidhu is the chair of the committee responsible for the monument’s construction.

The event has a $5 suggested donation and is free to museum and historical society members.

Colton Redtfeldt is Whatcom Museum’s marketing and public relations assistant.

Whatcom Museum

The non-profit Whatcom Museum is operated by the Whatcom Museum Foundation and the city of Bellingham. The Old City Hall building at 121 Prospect St. and the Lightcatcher Building at 250 Flora St. are open noon to 5 p.m. Wednesdays to Sundays. The Family Interactive Gallery, located inside the Lightcatcher, is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays to Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. Admission, good for all sites in a day, is $10 general, $8 youth (6-17 years) and student, senior or military, $5 children (2-5 years). Memberships start at $50 and include free museum admission.

The museum offers a variety of programs and exhibitions about art, nature and Northwest history. Its collections contain more than 200,000 artifacts and art of regional importance, including a photographic archive. The museum is accredited nationally by the American Alliance of Museums and is a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate.