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Spotlight on Culture

People that call this area Home

New Americans

Refugees from other areas of the world

Some of the people that came to live in the area did not come here by choice. They came here fleeing violence, climate disaster and unsurmountable economic situations in their home countries that, if they had stayed, would have endangered their lives, and the lives of their children and families.

Most came here with nothing, and built a good life for themselves and their descendants.

These first refugees stablished new roots here, and their cultures, languages, amazing food, and way of life have enriched the community that was already present here. Now they are important members of this community, and an integral part of the richness of diversity in the Red River Valley.

People seeking asylum have been coming to the state since the 1940s. Previous groups came from Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Bosnia. Today, they often come from Bhutan, Iraq/Syria, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and more recently- Afghanistan. In recent years, North Dakota has led the nation in per capita refugee resettlement. Populous states like California and Texas take in the largest total number of refugees, but relative to its population, North Dakota takes in the most. About 70 percent refugees who arrive annually in North Dakota settle in Fargo, with the rest going to Grand Forks and Bismarck.

Refugee resettlement in the U.S. depends on local sentiment, and how communities open themselves up to it. Community support and dedication make all the difference. North Dakota and Minnesota have had a large and committed community of professionals and volunteers working to help refugees make a new life here for many, many years. Over the decades the community has offered consistent support for the mission of offering new homes to desperate people.

As is true in all places, that generosity and commitment are not universally endorsed, and has been the subject of controversy throughout the years, but studies have disproven what they were accused of. The reality is that refugees and other immigrants have contributed greatly to the economic development we now enjoy. You can read more about that here. There's also a website with stories reported and written by eleven students in a semester-long advanced reporting class at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, that explores refugee resettlement in the Fargo-Moorhead area. More information on the programs offered by the Department of Human Services of North Dakota can be found here.

Organizations like LIRS took over these resettlement efforts after Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota closed. In close coordination with the State of North Dakota, refugees served by LIRS North Dakota in Fargo receive cultural orientation, help with school enrollment, help in the coordination of initial health appointments, referrals to ESL classes and employment preparation and placement. Some of our own partners in the Multicultural Alliance also work directly with refugees.

In the next few weeks, we'll feature detailed posts about the different culture profiles from the ones that are colloquially referred as New Americans, starting with the people from Somalia.

Stay tuned for more information on Somalia, and more places and their people in future posts. Our area is blessed to be called home by many people of many cultures, and they deserve to be acknowledged.


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