Punjabi pioneers were first amongst South Asians to immigrate to USA in latter half of 19th century.

Learn their history, struggles and ultimate triumph in this true American story.

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California's Pioneering Punjabis

An American Story

The History Press
Nov 2022
7.5 (w) x 9.25 (h)

+ $7.99 Standard Shipping (arrives 4 - 7 business days)

Using evocative vignettes and inspiring stories from many of California’s South Asian American citizens, Lea Terhune's California’s Pioneering Punjabis: An American Story contributes to the growing literature on Sikh and Punjabi studies, providing new and welcome case studies of California’s dynamic and often heroic immigrant families, communities, and individuals.
Paul Michael Taylor
Director, Asian Cultural History Program
Curator, Sikh Heritage Project
Smithsonian Institution
Lea Terhune's interest in the Punjabi immigrants and her unbelievably hard work interviewing so many of them and writing such a readable, indeed exciting, account of their lives has produced a marvelous book. I applaud her achievement and she applauds the achievements of the Punjabi immigrants from South Asia. Worth waiting for this book, years in the making and now here!
Karen Leonard
Professor Emerita,
Anthropology University of California, Irvine


At the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, adventurous travelers left the Punjab in India to seek their fortunes in California and beyond. 

Laboring in farms, fields and orchards for low wages while enduring racial discrimination, they strove to put down roots in their new home. 

Bhagat Singh Thind, an immigrant who served in the United States Army, had his citizenship granted and revoked twice before a 1936 law expanded naturalization to all World War I veterans, regardless of race. 

Dalip Singh Saund obtained a master’s degree and doctorate in mathematics from UC Berkeley only to return to farming when no one would hire him. In 1956, Saund went on to become the first Asian elected to the U.S. Congress. 

Ethnic South Asians are now found in every trade and profession in the United States, including the Office of the Vice President. 

Descendants of the first Punjabi immigrants from Yuba City to the Imperial Valley still farm, adding to the rich tapestry of the Central Valley. 

Author Lea Terhune recounts the risks, setbacks and persistence of the people who achieved their American dreams.

Lea Terhune

Lea Terhune


Lea Terhune is a writer and editor who lived for 22 years in New Delhi, India. She worked as a correspondent for broadcast and print media, including CNN International, Radio Deutsche Welle and Voice of America. She edited SPAN Magazine for the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, India, and later wrote and edited public diplomacy materials for the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC. She is the author of Karmapa: The Politics of Reincarnation and edited Relative World, Ultimate Mind and Awakening the Sleeping Buddha by the 12th Tai Situpa.

About PAHS

The Punjabi American Heritage Society (PAHS) is non-profit, non-political and secular organization founded in 1993. We build infrastructure and provide resources to help people learn about Punjabi  Americans. PAHS hosts an annual Festival during Memorial Day weekend in Yuba City, California. People of all cultural backgrounds come to perform and take part in the festivities from many areas across California.

Punjabi American Heritage Society

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