Punjabi Rebels of the Columbia River
Oregon is commonly perceived to have little, let alone notable, South Asian history. Yet in the early 1900s Oregon was at the center of two entwined quests for Indian independence and civic belonging that rocked the world.
Punjabi Rebels of the Columbia River traces the stories of the radical Indian independence organization known as Ghadar and Bhagat Singh Thind’s era-defining US Supreme Court citizenship case. Ghadar sought the overthrow of India’s British colonizers while Thind utilized sanctioned legal channels to do so. Despite widely differing strategies, both the movement and the man were targeted, often in coordination, by the highest levels of the US and British governments. The empires’ united message: India would not be an independent country and Indians could not be citizens. In the decades that followed, it was a verdict Indians refused to abide.
Johanna Ogden’s detailed history of migrants’ experience expands the time frame, geographic boundaries, and knowledge of the conditions and contributions of Indians in North America. It is the story of a people’s awakening amid a rich community of international workers in an age of nationalist uprisings. To understand why one of the smallest western Indian settlements became a resistance center, Punjabi Rebels mines the colonial underpinnings of labor, race, and place-making and their regional and global connections, rendering a history of whiteness and labor as much as of Indian-ness and migration. The first work to rejoin the lived experience of Thind and Ghadar activists, Punjabi Rebels complicates our understanding not just of the global fight for Indian political rights but of multi-racial democracy.
About the author
Johanna Ogden (MA, University of British Columbia) is an independent historian and local activist based in Portland. She has published multiple articles in Oregon Historical Quarterly, including “Ghadar, Historical Silences, and Notions of Belonging,” which received the Oregon Historical Society’s Joel Palmer Award, and has spoken extensively across the Pacific Northwest and in India.
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