Tibetan Americans

Last updated
Tibetan Americans
Total population
26,700, (Central Tibetan Administration estimate, 2020) [1]
Regions with significant populations
California (mainly Northern California), Colorado, Minnesota, Vermont, New Jersey, New York, Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Boston, Austin, Wisconsin, Chicago, Indiana, Oregon
Tibetan, English
Tibetan Buddhism
Related ethnic groups
Tibetans, Chinese Americans, Bhutanese Americans, Nepalese Americans and other Asian Americans particularly Americans of East Asian and South Asian descent

Tibetan Americans are Americans of Tibetan ancestry. As of 2020, more than 26,700 Americans are estimated to have Tibetan ancestry. [1] The majority of Tibetan Americans reside in Queens, New York. [2]



Ethnic Tibetans began to immigrate to the United States in the late 1950s. [3] Section 134 of the Immigration Act of 1990 gave a boost to the Tibetan immigration to the US, by providing 1,000 immigrant visas to Tibetans living in India and Nepal. [4] [3] Chain migration followed, and by 1998 the Tibetan-American population had grown to around 5,500, according to a census conducted by Central Tibetan Administration (CTA). The 2000 United States Census counted 5,147 US residents who reported Tibetan ancestry. [4]

Immigration timeline


An estimate of c. 7,000 was made in 2001, [3] and in 2008 the CTA's Office of Tibet in New York informally estimated the Tibetan population in the US at around 9,000. [4] In 2020, The Central Tibetan Administration estimated the number of Tibetans living in the United States to be over 26,700. [1] The migration of the Tibetans to the United States took on the pattern of 22 "cluster groups", located primarily in the Northeast, the Great Lakes region and the Intermountain West. Other communities include Austin, Texas and Charlottesville, Virginia. Tibetan Americans who are born in Tibet or elsewhere in Tibet are officially recognized as Chinese nationals not by choice due to China's occupation of Tibet. [5]


Advert in New York's "Little Tibet" neighborhood, urging Tibetan Americans to contribute to COVID-19 relief efforts for members of the diaspora struggling through India's 2021 COVID-19 outbreak. Tibetan American COVID relief for Tibetans in India.jpg
Advert in New York's "Little Tibet" neighborhood, urging Tibetan Americans to contribute to COVID-19 relief efforts for members of the diaspora struggling through India's 2021 COVID-19 outbreak.

Communities of Tibetan Americans in the Northeast exist in Boston and Amherst, Massachusetts, Ithaca, New York, and New York City, and in the states of Connecticut, Vermont and New Jersey. In New York and New Jersey, they live primarily in Queens and New Brunswick.

The town of Northfield, Vermont has been home for many years to the seat of the current Trijang Rinpoche, who has been estranged from the Dalai Lama due to the Dorje Shugden controversy, which has become a cultural heritage center for thousands of followers.


In the Mid-Atlantic region, the largest communities can be found in Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C., Montgomery County, Maryland, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Charlottesville, Virginia.

Great Lakes region

On the grounds of Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center, Bloomington, Indiana Bloomington-TibetanCC-Stupa-9107.jpg
On the grounds of Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center, Bloomington, Indiana

Communities of Tibetan Americans in the Great Lakes region exist in Chicago and in the states of Minnesota, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan. There is a Tibetan Mongol Buddhist Cultural Center in Bloomington, Indiana near the campus of Indiana University. [6] The late brother of the Dalai Lama was a professor at the university.

Minnesota has the second largest concentration of Tibetan Americans in the United States. [7]

Western United States

Communities of Tibetan Americans in the western U.S. exist in Seattle, Washington, Portland, Oregon, Berkeley, California, several locations in Southern California, and in the cities and states of Colorado Springs, Colorado, Boise, Idaho, Montana, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Washington, and Salt Lake City, Utah.

Every year, Seattle holds an annual Tibet Festival in August.


Although quite small in number overall, Colorado has one of the highest concentrations of Tibetans in North America, focused on Boulder, Colorado Springs, Douglas County and Crestone. The state has Naropa University whose values statement states, "We are Buddhist-inspired, ecumenical, and nonsectarian welcoming faculty, staff, and students of all faiths as well as those who don’t ascribe to any religion." [8] There is a Buddhist commune[ citation needed ] west of Castle Rock and several cities have Tibetan outreach organizations. Colorado Springs alone has three Tibetan stores and a restaurant.

Much of the reason[ citation needed ] behind this rather peculiar demographic is that Tibetan guerillas were secretly trained by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) at Camp Hale outside of Leadville. Camp Hale was used as a training camp for expatriate Tibetans to be inserted to aid the existing resistance in Tibet after the region was retaken by the Chinese People's Liberation Army, between 1959 and 1965.

From 1958 to 1960, Anthony Poshepny trained various special missions teams, including Tibetan Khambas and Hui Muslims, for operations in China against the Communist government. Poshepny sometimes claimed[ citation needed ] that he personally escorted the 14th Dalai Lama out of Tibet, but sources in the Tibetan exile deny this.

The site was chosen because of the similarities of the Rocky Mountains in the area with the Himalayan Plateau. The CIA parachuted four groups [9] of Camp Hale trainees inside Tibet between 1959 and 1960 to contact the remaining resistance groups, but the missions resulted in the death or capture of many team members.

Notable people

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gelug</span> Dominant school of Tibetan Buddhism

The Gelug is the newest of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. It was founded by Je Tsongkhapa (1357–1419), a Tibetan philosopher, tantric yogi and lama and further expanded and developed by his disciples.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche</span>

Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche is a teacher (lama) of the Bon Tibetan religious tradition. He is founder and director of the Ligmincha Institute and several centers named Chamma Ling, organizations dedicated to the study and practice of the teachings of the Bon tradition.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pabongkhapa Déchen Nyingpo</span> Buddhist lama

Pabongkhapa Déchen Nyingpo, (1878–1941) was a Gelug lama of the modern era of Tibetan Buddhism. He attained his Geshe degree at Sera Mey Monastic University, Lhasa, and became a highly influential teacher in Tibet. He was unusual for teaching a great number of lay-people. Pabongkha was offered the regency of the present Dalai Lama but declined the request because "he strongly disliked political affairs."

Ngawang Wangyal, aka Sogpo (Mongolian) Wangyal, popularly known as Geshe Wangyal and "America's first lama," was a Buddhist lama and scholar of Kalmyk origin. He was born in the Astrakhan province in southeast Russia sometime in 1901 and died in West Palm Beach, Florida in 1983. He came to the United States from Tibet in 1955 and was the spiritual leader of the Kalmuk Buddhist community in Freewood Acres, New Jersey at the Rashi Gempil-Ling Buddhist Temple. He is considered a "founding figure" of Buddhism in the West.

Shabdrung Lama Kunga Thartse Rinpoche is a Tibetan teacher of the Sakya school of Vajrayana Tibetan Buddhism. Lama Kunga Rinpoche is licensed in California to perform marriages with a Tibetan Buddhist ceremony.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Glenn H. Mullin</span>

Glenn H. Mullin is a Tibetologist, Buddhist writer, translator of classical Tibetan literature and teacher of Tantric Buddhist meditation.

Kyabje Trijang Chocktrul Rinpoche is the current tulku of the third Trijang Rinpoche, and succeeded Trijang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso. Rinpoche is the current principal throne holder of Shar Gaden Monastic University in South India, Karnataka, and the spiritual director of the Trijang Buddhist Institute in Northfield, Vermont.

Anne Carolyn Klein is an American Tibetologist who is a professor of Religious Studies at Rice University in Houston, Texas and co-founding director and resident teacher at Dawn Mountain, a Tibetan temple, community center and research institute.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Zong Rinpoche</span>

Zong Rinpoche was a Gelug Lama and disciple of the third Trijang Rinpoche, junior tutor of the 14th Dalai Lama. He was famous as a sharp analyst and master of philosophical debate, as well as a powerful Tantric practitioner. He was the Abbot of Ganden Shartse monastery.

Thekchen Choling is a registered Buddhist organisation in the Republic of Singapore. The organisation was started in 2001 by Singha Thekchen Rinpoche and a group of his initial disciples. The organisation promotes non-sectarian Buddhism, emphasizing understanding of Theravada and Mahayana teachings. TCCL is committed to the Rime (non-sectarian) movement within Tibetan Buddhism though it is of the Gelug tradition. The primary practices and teachings of this temple are from Guru Rinpoche lineage and Lama Tsongkapa lineage.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tsepon W. D. Shakabpa</span> Tibetan politician

Tsepon Wangchuk Deden Shakabpa was a Tibetan nobleman, scholar, statesman and former Finance Minister of the government of Tibet.

Manjushri Institute was a large Buddhist college situated at Conishead Priory in Cumbria, England from 1976 until its dissolution in 1991. In 1991 its assets, including Conishead Priory, were transferred to a new centre on the same premises, Manjushri Mahayana Buddhist Centre, which was later renamed Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre.

Khensur Denma Locho Rinpoche also known as Lobsang Oser Choying Gyatso, was a Tibetan incarnate lama, or tulku, of the Loseling College of Drepung Monastery. An expert on Yamantaka and Vajrayogini, he is considered an incomparable luminary of Je Tsongkhapa's lineage, is renowned as a holder of the Tantric lineages, a master of the Tantric yogas, and the lineage holder of Ling Rinpoche.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ling Rinpoche</span> Tibetan tulku

Kyabje Yongzin Ling Rinpoche is a Tibetan tulku. The best-known incarnation is the sixth incarnation, Thupten Lungtok Namgyal Thinley, a Tibetan buddhist scholar and teacher.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Trijang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso</span> Tibetan Gelugpa lama (1901–1981)

The Third Trijang Rinpoche, Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso (1901–1981) was a Gelugpa Lama and a direct disciple of Pabongkhapa Déchen Nyingpo. He succeeded Ling Rinpoche as the junior tutor of the 14th Dalai Lama when the Dalai Lama was nineteen years old. He was also a lama of many Gelug lamas who taught in the West including Zong Rinpoche, Geshe Rabten, Lama Yeshe, Kelsang Gyatso, and Lama Zopa Rinpoche. Trijang Rinpoche's oral teachings were recorded by Zimey Rinpoche in a book called the Yellow Book.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Khyongla Rato</span> Tibetan Buddhist scholar and teacher (1923–2022)

Khyongla Rato, also known as Khyongla Rato Rinpoche, Rato Khyongla Rinpoche, Khyongla Rinpoche, Ngawang Lobsang Shedrub Tenpai Dronme, and also as Nawang Losang, his monk's name, was a scholar and teacher in the Gelugpa tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. He was born in Dagyab county in Kham province in southeastern Tibet, and was recognized as an incarnate lama at an early age. He spent over thirty years of his life as a monk studying in the monasteries of Tibet and receiving teachings from many highly qualified lamas.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nicholas Vreeland</span> Swiss Buddhist monk

Nicholas Vreeland, also known as Rato Khen Rinpoche, Geshe Thupten Lhundup, is a fully ordained Tibetan Buddhist monk who is the abbot of Rato Dratsang Monastery, a 10th-century Tibetan Buddhist monastery reestablished in India. Vreeland is also a photographer. He is the son of Ambassador Frederick Vreeland and grandson of Diana Vreeland, the fashion editor.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lobsang Dolma Khangkar</span>

Lobsang Dolma Khangkar also called Lobsang Dolma or Ama Lobsang Dolma was a 13th generation doctor of traditional Tibetan medicine. She travelled with the Dalai Lama in 1959 from Tibet to India. She was the First woman to become chief physician of the Men-Tsee-Khang. She and the others carried her daughters on their backs into what is now Dharamsala, India: Tsewang Dolkar Khangkar and Pasang Gyalmo Khangkar, succeeded her in the family line of doctors, the Khangkar.

Ngawang may refer to:


  1. 1 2 3 Baseline Study of Tibetan Diaspora Community Outside South Asia (PDF) (Report). The Central Tibetan Administration. September 2020. p. 45. Retrieved 26 September 2020.
  2. "Most Significant Unreached People Group Communities in Metro NY". GLOBAL GATES. 17 July 2012. Retrieved 27 October 2014.
  3. 1 2 3 Bhuchung K. Tsering, Enter the Tibetan Americans: Tibetan Americans establish a presence in the United States. Tibet Foundation Newsletter, February 2001.
  4. 1 2 3 Global Nomads: The Emergence of the Tibetan Diaspora (Part I), by Seonaigh MacPherson (University of British Columbia), Anne-Sophie Bentz (Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies), Dawa Bhuti Ghoso
  5. Ling, Huping (2008). Emerging Voices: Experiences of Underrepresented Asian Americans. Rutgers University Press. pp. 77–78.
  6. Tibetan Mongol Buddhist Cultural Center, Bloomington, Indiana Archived 2010-01-31 at the Wayback Machine - official site
  7. Immigration in Minnesota: Discovering Common Ground (PDF) (Report). The Minneapolis Foundation. October 2004. p. 14. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 March 2015. Retrieved 24 July 2014.
  8. "Mission and Values". www.naropa.edu. Retrieved 2017-07-03.
  9. Committee, Canada Tibet. "Canada Tibet Committee | Library | WTN | Archive | Old". www.tibet.ca. Retrieved 2017-07-03.