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Somalis in Minnesota

by Ahmed Ismail Yusuf

Publication Year: 2012

The story of Somalis in Minnesota begins with three words: sahan, war, and martisoor. Driven from their homeland by civil war and famine, one group of Somali sahan, pioneers, discovered well-paying jobs in the city of Marshall, Minnesota. Soon the war, news, traveled that not only was employment available but the people in this northern state, so different in climate from their African homeland, were generous in martisoor, hospitality, just like the Somali people themselves. The diaspora began in 1992, and today more than fifty thousand Somalis live in Minnesota, the most of any state. Many have made their lives in small towns and rural areas, and many more have settled in Minneapolis, earning this city the nickname “Little Somalia” or “Little Mogadishu.” Amiable guide Ahmed Yusuf introduces readers to these varied communities, exploring economic and political life, religious and cultural practices, and successes in education and health care. he also tackles the controversial topics that command newspaper headlines: alleged links to terrorist organizations and the recruitment of young Somali men to fight in the civil war back home. This newest addition to the people of Minnesota series captures the story of the state’s most recent immigrant group at a pivotal time in its history.

Published by: Minnesota Historical Society Press

Series: People of Minnesota

Front Cover

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Title Page, Copyright

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Table of Contents

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Map of Somalia

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pp. 1-3

Somalis would trust three words in their language to tell a tale about them: sahan, war, and martisoor. These three words define certain economic, social, and cultural behaviors that would fit most Somalis, particularly those...

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Somalis in Minnesota

In the early 1990s, many Minnesota citizens noticed a trickle of conspicuously dressed Africans, especially women in colorful attire, some veiled and some with simple headscarves, arriving at schools, grocery stores, supermarkets, and shopping centers, sharing...

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A Brief Overview of Somali History

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pp. 6-14

Some sources estimate that Somalis have been in Somalia for two thousand years. Yet the Somalis’ own origin stories tell that it was a thousand years ago, perhaps a little less, that Arabs landed on Somali...

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On Foot in Fear

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pp. 14-18

As Somalis fled the south, they knew not where they were heading nor how long they were going to be away from their homes. Misery was their constant companion. One example is the story of Dr. Amina Siyad, who paid the last penny of her family...

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War (News) Center in San Diego

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pp. 18-20

“ Immigrants are a very mobile population . . . They freely move [to] wherever the economy allows them to get a job or social service agencies exist to help them adjust to life in the U.S. or where a large...

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A Ray of Hope

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p. 21-21

In early summer 1992, a poultry company called Heartland Food Company in Marshall, Minnesota, added a third shift to its turkey processing plant and sought staff to fill it. On May 20, 1992, the Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Argus Leader included an advertisement that the plant was hiring. Four Somalis from Sioux

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The Ultimate Sahan Group

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pp. 21-36

Hot on the faint trail of war about jobs, four bachelors from San Diego hopped into a car. Just as their nomad forefathers had traveled in search of greener pastures for thousands of years, this sahan group from San Diego was charged with authenticating the news....

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pp. 36-38

Somalis are 99.9, if not 100, percent Sunni Muslims who believe that their faith is the ultimate guiding principle of life. Their daily routines revolve around Islam’s core teachings, which provide the rules for behavior in marriage, household...

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pp. 39-42

Somalis are reaping the products of the civil rights movement, its seeds sown even before Somalia came into existence. Progressive figures such as Hubert Humphrey, who as vice president was the first high-ranking American official to visit Somalia, in January...

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pp. 43-48

Despite Minnesota’s welcoming communities, Somalis have faced challenges. A leading contender, experienced by immigrant groups over the centuries, involves proficiency in English, without which one cannot articulate his or her needs and...

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Social and School Interactions

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pp. 48-51

With Somalis’ arrival in Minnesota, cultural collisions soon surfaced in schools. In the 1990s, tensions began to rise in inner-city public schools, particularly at Roosevelt High in South Minneapolis, which at the time accommodated the largest...

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Misguided Religious Passion

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pp. 51-54

Cultural and religious misunderstandings were problematic for the adult Somali community at the same time that their children were struggling. One example hit the news in the summer...

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Entrepreneurial Spirit

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pp. 54-60

Despite all the lost capital and business expertise that comes from uprooting one’s life, Somalis’ entrepreneurial spirit lives on, adjusting to new environments as it always has. One positive...

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p. 61-61

By nature, a Somali is a political animal. Somalis’ political participation on both the state and the federal level has been quite pronounced. A large share of the credit goes to the late Senator Paul Wellstone, who in the mid-nineties first approached the...

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Disputable Numbers

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pp. 61-63

By nature, a Somali is a political animal. Somalis’ political participation on both the state and the federal level has been quite pronounced. A large share of the credit goes to the late Senator Paul...

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Somalis as Minnesotans: Small Somalia

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pp. 63-66

“ Immigrants are fairly mobile and move about freely, eventually settling where they have family, friends and/or a job.” Judy Stuthman, Chair, Immigration Study Committee...

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Personal Account: Mohamoud Bile Jama

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pp. 67-69

An embodiment of those Somalis who have not felt resettled in the United States until they came to Minnesota is an immeasurably tenacious, determined, and resolved father of seven, Mohamoud Bile Jama, who shares his story, which...

Further Reading

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pp. 70


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pp. 71-78


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pp. 79-82

Picture Credits

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pp. 83-84


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pp. 84-85

About the Author, Back Cover

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pp. 86

E-ISBN-13: 9780873518741
E-ISBN-10: 0873518748
Print-ISBN-13: 9780873518673
Print-ISBN-10: 0873518675

Page Count: 112
Illustrations: 50 b&w photos, 1 map, notes, index, 2 tables, suggested reading
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: 1
Series Title: People of Minnesota