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Namgyal Dorjee

Namgyal Dorjee

Fulbright Scholar and President of Tibetan American Foundation of Minnesota.

Born: Orissa, India
Heritage: Tibetan

There’s no room for selfishness anymore. The global world is coming together. Work hard, be peaceful, and compassionate.

Namgyal Dorjee

Fulbright Scholar and President of Tibetan American Foundation of Minnesota.

Well, my name is Namgyal Dorjee. I was born in India. My parents came from Tibet. My parents came from Tibet because Tibet was occupied by China. Thousands and thousands of people were killed in 1959.

My parents and lots of others decided to escape to India. Through the Himalayan Mountains, walking for several months over the mountains, they finally reached India. A few for ten years, yeah, ten years, they’ve been working on road construction. They don’t have any permanent place to live.

Basically they came as refugee, they live as refugee. They live in a tent and they’ve been working there for about ten years and then finally the government of India gave some space for Tibetan refugees to live.

That’s how the Tibetan refugee camps were settled. My parents went to that settlement down in south India called Chandragiri, Orissa, and I was born on way to Orissa. I was actually born on a train on way to Orissa for the settlement. I was born in India.

My family, we have…I was told that we have seven brothers and sisters. Three of them had died on their way to India, on their way to India because of the drastic weather conditions in India. In Tibet, it’s very cold. People live in small mountains. They live in the mountains area. But when they came down to India, because of the weather, because of the food condition, three of my older brothers had died.

The Chinese occupation of Tibet affects everybody in Tibetan community. Even in my own particular case, my grandfather from my mom’s side was killed, actually killed on way to escape to India. The Chinese occupation affects each and everybody in the Tibetan community.

I was born in India. My parents were born in Tibet. I was born in India. I have two daughters, they were born in the United States. So we have three generations all born in three different countries.

So my kids right now, I have one in middle school, eighth grader and one in Highland, fourth grader, just like you guys.

In terms of growing up, my parents, actually my father died when I was about eleven years old. I was sent to foster care. I was being taken care by the foster care and it also served as a boarding school.

For ten months, we had to be in the boarding schools. We stayed there, we have foster parents who teach us how to cook, how to clean up ourselves, how to take care of ourselves, and also how to do our prayers, homework, and all the schoolworks. Therefore lots of people like me, we know how to cook. Even though we are men, we cook, because we learn how to cook when we’re in school.

We could only see our parents two months a year. That is, in the months of December and January we have two months vacation. We go to our parents and see them and enjoy two months vacation and then we go back to our boarding school, which is also serve as foster care. We stay there for ten months and study and everything.

Finally, when I was in twelfth grade, I graduated from high school and I with good percentage—over there we have percentage-wise, first grade which is about 60% and I graduated with 60%. But we were mandated to go to Army after we graduated from high school.

So I went to Army, but because of my high grades in my high school, I was told to come back and I was given a scholarship to go to college. So I did my college? education from Panjab University which is in northern India. I got a scholarship. I did that for three years. Then also I had one year of teaching. I got a teaching license.

So after that, I went to teach in one of the Tibetan schools in Nepal. Does anybody know Nepal? Where’s Nepal? Nepal is the country. It’s actually a small country located between India and Tibet. Yeah, right there (points at map).

It’s very close to Tibet. The mountainous area…Mount Everest is actually located right in between Nepal and Tibet on this side of Mount Everest, where Nepal is located? Lots of sherpas, lot of mountaineers.

I don’t know if you’ve heard about Tenzing Sherpa, Sir Hilary, Edmund Hilary. They’re the first ones in 1953 to climb the Mount Everest. So they climbed from the Nepalese side. On the other side of Mount Everest, it’s Tibet.

So Nepal is located between India and Tibet. There are a lot of Tibetan refugees in Nepal also. So I was told at the time they were in need of a Tibetan teacher, social studies teacher in Nepal. So even though my parents, my family, all my family members live in India, I decided to go to Nepal.

I don’t have anybody over there, but because of my commitment to education, to my community, I decided to go to Nepal. I taught there for three years and I taught social studies over there.

Because I have the teaching license from India, I was able to teach there also and with the permission of the Nepalese government, at the time there was a king in Nepal, but he was assassinated later on, but at the time it was called Kingdom of Nepal.

So I taught there for three years. After three years, there was a scholarship announcement from United States government saying that there’s a Fulbright Scholarship available for the dependents of refugees so I applied for the Fulbright Scholarship and I was selected to do my Masters in school counseling.

That was in 1993. I came to the United States. I did my Masters in school counseling. So school counselors are basically you’re providing guidance and counseling to the school children like you guys.

The higher level, basically helping you guys to find the good colleges where you can find the scholarships and financial aid and also help you prepare for your career. You know, what kind of career you want to be based on your interests and abilities.

So I started that and I went back to India again and I was a school counselor at a high school for about two years. And then finally I decided to come back to this country, the United States, and it was 1998 that I decided to come to the United States.

I got married at the time and my daughter was born in New York City. The first born was born in New York City in 1999. After that I actually, I worked in foster care in a group home as a child welfare specialist.

I related to them my experience working with and staying in a group home. I talked to the kids giving an example of myself that even though you live in a group home, even though you live in foster care, there are some opportunities for you to grow and be educated and be yourself.

So I always related to individuals, young individuals. Oftentimes, those are for most of the time people of color, but I always tell them that no matter what color you are you have the ability, you have the potential to be a good person.

So I always tell them to work hard, study hard, listen to the instructions, listen to the teachers and also listen to the caseworkers who work for them. Because oftentimes these are the caseworkers who will work for you to help you to find a permanent placement and also find you a good school for you.

After that what happened was after 9-11, anybody know 9-11? Yes, 9-11, at that time I was in New York City and my daughter was about three years old. Because of that, 9-11, there was a lot of budget issues in New York City.

Because I worked for the City of New York, they laid off a lot of people, thousands of people actually, city employees, especially the newer ones, they laid off all the newer employees. So I got laid off, I was one of them.

In 2003 and decided to come to Minnesota. 2003, I decided to come to Minnesota because my sister and my brother were here at the time. Also, I knew that we had a lot of snows here and because we grew up in snow, in Tibet we were called…in ourselves, when we talk to ourselves, we’re called the Land of Snow. Also we also call ourselves Snowmen, which is like a Kunjipah, which means, we live in the snow.

We heard that Minnesota is a place where they have a lot of snow and we decided, me and my wife and my two kids, decided to come to here. Over here in Minnesota right now we have about three thousand Tibetans. Originally there was only a hundred-and-fifty people. Finally people from different places started to move into Minnesota so we have about 3000 Tibetans here in Minnesota, making it the second largest population in the United States next to New York.

After that, I worked in one of the manufacturing companies. I started as the operator and then gradually I became a supervisor of that company. And then…and then what happened…the company the job was shifted to China, I was laid off again.

Finally I decided to go back to school and try to get my license in school counseling and I did. I am a licensed school counselor, but I’m still trying…I’m always wanting to work with the kids therefore I tried here in Columbia Heights because I live here in Columbia Heights school district.



Honoring Namgyal Dorjee


“Whatever Actions You Do Reflects Your Family Background” — Namgyal Dorjee

Whatever actions you do reflects
your family background
Whatever actions you do reflects
your family background

Oh – Oh – Compassion
Oh – Oh – Compassion

Don’t have a problem with China.
Just don’t want them to keep us down
Tibet is the land of my people.
Tibet is sacred ground

Oh – Oh – Compassion
Oh – Oh – Compassion

Land of the Dalai Lama.
Land of temples and monks
They killed them off by the thousands,
Enough is enough!

Oh – Oh – Compassion
Oh – Oh – Compassion

There use to be six million
Over one million died
Now fewer in number
Than the Chinese who occupy

Oh – Oh – Compassion
Oh – Oh – Compassion

When this life is over,
We turn into another life
Sweet transformation,
The spirit never dies!

Oh – Oh – Compassion
Oh – Oh – Compassion

The Chinese military
Control Tibet night and day
With guns in the monastery
Even when the monks chant and pray

Oh – Oh – Compassion
Oh – Oh – Compassion

They won’t let local people
Go into the monasteries
To protest, self-immolation,
Set my people free!

Oh – Oh – Compassion
Oh – Oh – Compassion

Lhakar means White Wednesdays,
It’s the auspicious day
Don’t buy stuff from China,
These words to you I say

Whatever actions you do reflects
your family background
Whatever actions you do reflects
your family background

Words & music by Larry Long with Teresa Fenske’s 4th Grade Class from Valley View Elementary School in Columbia Heights, Minnesota.