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The East Indians or Hindus


It is only of late years, especially since 1905, that the East Indians have come in large numbers into the United States. The Census of 1900 showed only 2,050 persons in the United States who had been born in India. These were nearly all of the student and business classes, and were largely settled in the Eastern States. In 1906 the number arriving in the United States was 271; in 1907, 1,072; in 1908, 1,710. Of immigrants proper in 1909, 337 were reported by the Immigration Bureau; in 1909-10, from July to July, 1,782. Probably at the present time there are some 5,000 or 6,000 in the United States, about 85 per cent. being Hindus wearing the turbans, the others being Mohammedans, or Afghans.


The beginning of the immigration to America was, as is perhaps natural, into Canada, a British Colony. They came first largely from the efforts of steamship agents and contractors who were employing laborers for British Columbia corporations. After arriving in British Columbia they had their attention turned toward the United States, partly on account of the warmer climate, more nearly like that to which they were accustomed, partly on account of the higher rates of wages; and after they had begun coming into the United States they, reporting back home to their friends, brought many others after them.

The Canadian authorities took rather rigid means of excluding them from coming in large numbers to

Canada: First, by increasing the amount of money that they should have in their possession from $25 to $200; second, by not permitting them to come unless they came by direct route without change of ship, a matter that was almost impossible; third, in part also, by direct arrangements with the steamship companies.


In the United States, inasmuch as they have been so disliked by the other working classes, and also by employers, it has been difficult for them to find work, so that the immigration authorities have felt justified in excluding many of them, on the ground that they might become public charges, even tho they have $25 or more in their possession, and are in good physical condition. Altho 4,901 East Indians have been admitted to the United States during the four years ending June 1, 1910, 1,597 have been denied admission; 750 on the ground that they were likely to become public charges; 447 because they had trachoma; 112 because of loathsome or contagious disease; 177 on surgeon's certificate of mental or physical defects; 73 because they were contract laborers; 2 because idiotic; 2 criminals; 34 because they were polygamists.


Of those who were investigated by the Immigration Commission, it was found that 85 per cent. had been farmers and farm laborers in India. Of the others, some had been soldiers, some business men, and a somewhat larger number laborers in other lines. Usually they have little money in their possession when they arrive, and come with the expectation of accumulating a fortune of some $2,000, then going

back to their native land. Some of them express dissatisfaction with the British Government in India, but it can by no means be said that they are fleeing from political oppression.

Usually they have come without their families, but some, having decided to remain here, hope to have their families join them.

Usually they have been engaged in the roughest and most unskilled labor, to a considerable extent in the lumber mills, sometimes on the railroads, sometimes in the sugar-beet fields, and many of them as hand laborers in fruit picking.


Where they work in competition with the other races they have sometimes been paid higher wages than the Japanese-as a rule lower wages than white men, they not being recognized generally as a white race. In some cases, certainly in Canada, they have been considered less desirable laborers than either Japanese or Chinese. Physically they are weak as compared with white men, or with the Japanese; generally they are slow to understand instructions, and practically always they require close supervision. Probably four-fifths of the 5,000 or more found in the United States are in California. Practically none of the laboring class are found outside of the Pacific Coast States. In some instances they have found employment without much difficulty because the people desire to break the monopoly control of the labor supplied by the Japanese, or because the Japanese and the Chinese were demanding what they considered too high wages.

In many cases where there has been competition

they have been willing to accept some 25 cents to 50 cents a day less than the Japanese and Chinese. There seems to be little doubt that they are, on the whole, in the most insecure position of all the Asiatic races. Moreover, it seems likely that they are the most undesirable as workers, both on account of their physical and mental qualifications and of their habits of living.


The standard of living of the Hindus is lower than that of any of the races with whom they compete, altho, of course, where wages improve, their standard of living rises, if that may be judged by expense. Generally speaking, they are without families; they live in groups sometimes as large as 50; generally they are provided with free lodging in shacks or barns, if they are on farms; often they live in the open. They sleep in blankets on the floor or on the ground. On account of their caste system they cook individually, or the members of each caste form a mess and have the food provided by some one of their own number. They usually will not buy meat that has been prepared by other hands. They eat, therefore, for meat only poultry and lambs that they have butchered themselves. Many of them are vegetarians; those who are not, eat but little meat. Most of them are originally total abstainers from all kinds. of intoxicating liquors, and even from tea and coffee; but since coming into this country and getting something of a greater degree of freedom from the customs of their own country, some have been changed from total abstainers to rather free users of intoxicating liquors. They dress very poorly, the

cost of clothing averaging perhaps not more than $30 per man per year. In some investigations made in Oregon and Washington, it was found that their average cost of subsistence was about $12 per month, but this is, of course, considerably better than those who live on the farms.


The percentage of illiteracy among the Hindus is larger than among any other immigrant race, not excepting the Mexicans. In many cases as many as three-fifths of the entire number are unable to read and write. A somewhat larger number of them speak English, especially if we count those who have come in lately, as they have either studied English in India, come here by way of Canada, or come in contact elsewhere with English-speaking people.


They are not readily assimilated, and there seem to be practically none of the people on the Pacific Coast who are not opposed to their immigration, certainly more strongly opposed to them than to the Chinese, and possibly than to the Japanese.



The conditions in the Western States, where the labor supply is, relatively speaking, much less than in the East, tend to lead one to arrive at an entirely different conclusion regarding immigration. It can not be said that there is an oversupply of immigrant

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