Traditional Tibetan dance performance at Evanston’s Custer Fair, June 16, 2018                          Photo by Jeremy Pardoe

The Tibetan Alliance of Chicago will host a reception to launch the exhibit “Tibetans in Chicago: A Story of Resilience and Success” at 6 p.m. on May 17 in the Noyes Cultural Arts Center, 927 Noyes St. The exhibit, which runs through Aug. 23, celebrates 25 years since the inception of the Tibetan community in Chicago.

In 1992, 93 Tibetan refugees living in villages and refugee settlements in India and Nepal began resettling in Chicago as a result of a provision in the 1990 Immigration Act that granted 1,000 visas to Tibetan exiles in these countries. Prior to their arrival, there was only one Tibetan living in Chicago.

Unlike most refugees, who have financial support from the U.S. government, the Tibetans came as immigrants and therefore had no public support. Their immigration was sponsored by a private non-profit organization, The Tibetan Resettlement Project-Chicago, established to coordinate all of their immigration services including visa preparation, transportation, sponsorship, housing, employment, health care, language classes and a variety of other social services. 

Originally resettled in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago, the community has spread across the Chicago region. Nearly 400 Tibetans now call Chicagoland their home, and the Tibetan community now has a community center in Evanston.

To thank their American and Chicago supporters, the Tibetan community has organized an exhibit of photographs and artifacts documenting their presence and growth in Chicago. The opening on May 17 will feature a short dance performance from the Tibetan community as well as light refreshments and a short welcome speech.

Tibetans began living as refugees in India and Nepal as a result of the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1959, when more than 100,000 Tibet-ans, including the Dalai Lama, the spiritual and political leader of Tibet, fled over the Himalayan mountains by foot to safety in India and Nepal.

Since that time, nearly one million Tibetans have died or
been killed in Tibet. Thousands of monasteries have been destroyed, and an attack on Tibetan culture has ensued. The Tibetans in Chicago see themselves as ambassadors of Tibet – not only to thrive individually, but to represent those Tibetans whose voices cannot be heard.