Listen: Far from the Mountains / Thupten and Tara Dadak (Call-in)

Midday presents an MPR documentary “Far From the Mountains,” which follows the story of one of the 1,000 Tibetans resettling in the United States in the early 1990s.

After documnetray, Tupten and Tara Dadak of the Tibetan-American Foundation of Minnesota discuss topics from documentary.


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GARY EICHTEN: Today, we're going to spend some time talking about Tibet, a country that does not get a lot of attention in our part of the world. First of all, we're going to hear a new Minnesota Public Radio documentary, which features some Tibetans who have come to Minnesota to tell the story of Tibet. Later, you'll have a chance to talk with two members of the Tibetan American Foundation of Minnesota.

First though, Far From the Mountains. Here to introduce the documentary is Paula Schroeder.

PAULA SCHROEDER: If your homeland is a place most Americans have never seen and cannot even imagine, how do you make them care what happens there? How do you tell them your story? 1,000 Tibetans recently immigrated to this country are trying. They hope to make Americans care about one of the most remote places on Earth so that someday, their homeland can be freed from its decades long occupation by China.

The Tibetans are followers of the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet. After the Chinese takeover of Tibet, the Dalai Lama and tens of thousands of his followers fled to Nepal and India. There, they have lived in exile settlements for more than 30 years, hoping someday to return to Tibet. In 1990, the US government passed a special provision allowing 1,000 Tibetans from the exile settlements to come to the United States. Here, they have started tiny new communities at different sites around the country, all dedicated to spreading word of the Tibetan cause.

The 185 Tibetans who live in the Twin Cities make up the largest of these settlements. This is their story, seen through the eyes of one Tibetan woman. It was written and produced by Minnesota Public Radio's Mary Losure.


MARY LOSURE: It's a bleak late winter day and Tibetans are marching through the streets of Minneapolis. Among the demonstrators is Tenzin Shuten, known to her friends as Tenshu.

TENZIN SHUTEN: Stop killing!

MARY LOSURE: Tenshu's voice is hoarse with shouting. She walks through the snow and slush wearing the long skirt of a Tibetan lady. She's less than five feet tall, but she raises her fist in the air and stretches to her full height as she chants with the crowd, Tibet belongs to Tibetans, long live Dalai Lama.

TENZIN SHUTEN: Love live--


TENZIN SHUTEN: Long live--


MARY LOSURE: The protesters march through falling snow to a footbridge over Interstate Highway 94. They wave their signs and draped the Tibetan flag over the railing. But when I ask her how she thinks the demonstration is working, Tenshu says she's afraid no one will notice it. If it were up to her, she'd have everyone get down off the bridge and onto the cement divider between six lanes of rush hour traffic.

TENZIN SHUTEN: The car is going zooming up and down, yeah. And they have no time to look up. It's better for us to stand on those. In the middle, there's one railing, no? Yeah, then we'll get some notice.

MARY LOSURE: Down there?

TENZIN SHUTEN: Down there, yeah.

MARY LOSURE: You'd also get killed.

TENZIN SHUTEN: No, no, no. I mean, it's all right to die for the freedom, yeah. As long as we can have the other people's attention. Everybody can stand on the line there. I mean, we are sensible enough not to push each other. And then people will have the attraction. They might stop the cars, so you know. Yeah.

MARY LOSURE: The Tibetan immigrants marching in the snow had to leave their families behind them in Nepal and India. Only one person from each household was allowed to come. That's because only a thousand visas were issued for the special program letting Tibetans emigrate to the United States. When the program began, Tenshu's husband was dying of bone cancer. He encouraged her to apply.

TENZIN SHUTEN: My husband filled in all the forms. He said, if you stay in India, you will no doubt miss me more. Whereas if you go to the States, Tenshu, you will be busy yourself. And in that way, you will be able to help our old mother and especially help our four children. I wish I could be with you personally. But he says, never ever feel that you are lonely. Wherever you go, my soul will be with you.

MARY LOSURE: And so Tenshu left her children behind in boarding schools in India. Her three sons are teenagers. Her daughter is 11 years old. She has applied to have the children join her, but under US immigration law, it will be two years before they can.

TENZIN SHUTEN: I do receive letters and all from them. But it's very sad. Firstly, they had to part from their father, who died just a year and-- almost over a year now. And then suddenly, they had to part from me. I just cannot express it in words. But it's absolutely sad for the children and then for me also.



MARY LOSURE: Each morning before going to work, Tenshu gets up early to pray. In the living room on an old chest of drawers that serves as an altar are rows of silver bowls that she fills with water. The water is an offering to the deities, some of whose statues stand on the altar, along with a picture of the Dalai Lama who Tenshu believes is also a deity, the living incarnation of the Buddha of compassion.

Near the picture, there's a small oil burning light. It's called a butter lamp. Because in Tibet, it burned yak butter. Tenshu says the mantra, a prayer of compassion for all living things, over and over. Not just in front of the altar, but also as she moves around the apartment, putting slices of bread in the toaster or making tea.

Tenshu lives with three other Tibetan women, all recent immigrants, in a small apartment. At 6:30, Tenshu's friend comes by, and the two walk to work together.



MARY LOSURE: The apartment is on an elm shaded street in what was once a prosperous neighborhood. It's a pretty brick building with a sign that says "drug free zone, no trespassing, no loitering." In the distance, the skyline of Minneapolis stands up blue and silver behind a huge billboard advertising cigarettes. The two women cut across the parking lot and head toward the city center to the hospital laundry where they both work. Their walk takes them past the old county detox center and across the vast canyon of the interstate highway. They pass community gardens dedicated to a city councilman dead of AIDS.

Tenshu eats her breakfast of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich as she walks, and she keeps looking at her watch.

TENZIN SHUTEN: Just now and then, my mind says, just look at your watch. And keep up with the American speed. And time is not very strict in India. But here, oh, it's entirely different. Time is everything.

MARY LOSURE: Last night, it was past midnight when Tenshu got home from her second job as a waitress in a Vietnamese restaurant. Tenshu and her friend take a short cut through a parking garage and down into a network of tunnels under the streets of Minneapolis. They take one turn after another, never slowing their pace.

TENZIN SHUTEN: This is the underground. We are walking under the ground.


MARY LOSURE: Inside the laundry, Tenshu feeds pillowcases into a huge steam presser. Overhead, 200-pound bales of laundry hang from a pulley system, swaying gently as they're moved along. Tenshu stands in a line of other workers. Here, she dresses like everyone else, in a t-shirt, tennis shoes, and blue jeans. She's a slender, pretty woman, who from a distance, you might mistake for a young girl.

But Tenshu's real age is about 40. She's not sure exactly, because when she was a child in Tibet before the Chinese came, they didn't keep track of people's birthdays.

TENZIN SHUTEN: I was born on the southern part of Tibet, which is called Nyanang. Vividly, I can remember my own house. We are a very big farm, and we had lot and lot of animals, including some horses, yaks, and cows, sheep, all we had in plenty. This is one evening when I came running to my house from my usual play, you see.

And inside, I saw my auntie, uncle. My daddy and mom was also there in tears. So then I saw my mom and dad also packing some things. Then later on, we heard that all the children are being called by the Chinese for sweets, you know. So we were called there. And luckily, my parents didn't send me. All those children, all those parents who have sent their children to the Chinese office, they have been captured totally. And then they have been sent to Peking and was never seen again.

Then it must be around 12:00 mid or 1:00 AM that we had to leave the house. We didn't have anything with us, nothing. Mom and Dad and my eldest sisters, they brought some bundles on their back. And I believe those were the clothes to change. One good pair of clothes, you know. And whatever was necessary on the way. So anyhow, struggling on the way. You know how the mountain pass is just narrow and sometimes we have to cross such a gushing, frightful river on just one plank.

In fact, many people died while crossing the mountain pass. So like that, we came finally on the borders of India. Nepal. I'm sorry, on the borders of Nepal. Where we stayed for a year, I think. And it was in Nepal, the first time, I'll never forget this. We were so stupid or so innocent, whatever you call it. Illiterate, you know. That I thought the whole world or whoever was outside Tibet spoke the same language as we Tibetans.


MARY LOSURE: For centuries, Tibet was one of the most remote places in the world. Its interior is a plateau high and cold, guarded all around by natural barriers. Picture it as a fortress with walls on all four sides. The Himalayas, the highest mountain range in the world, make up two of those walls. The third is a thousand mile expanse of arctic plains. And on the fourth side lie more mountain ranges and the deep gorges of some of the largest rivers in the world.

Protected behind these barriers, Tibet developed a civilization dedicated to the pursuit of spiritual knowledge through Buddhism, preserved in its most ancient forms. A place where as much as one-third of the male population lived in monasteries lit by the flickering of butter lamps that burned, it sometimes said, 30% of all the butter in the country. A place where there were no roads, only footpaths.

In the 18th century, Tibet's isolation deepened. Fearful of colonization by an outside power, it sealed off its borders to Westerners. Well into the 20th century, Tibet was a land of medieval pageantry, almost completely removed from the Western world. A place so isolated that in its entire history, only a handful of Westerners had ever been inside.

RADIO ANNOUNCER: Those of you listening to this broadcast are about to hear the first words ever to be spoken into a microphone in the mysterious land of the Dalai Lama.

LOWELL THOMAS: Greetings, everybody. It hardly seems possible. But here we are in Lhasa.

MARY LOSURE: In 1949, the CBS broadcaster Lowell Thomas made a series of tape recordings in Tibet. From Lhasa, Tibet's capital, they were carried out of the country by runners bearing the traditional spears of the Tibetan Postal Service. Lowell Thomas and his son Lowell Thomas, Jr., came to Tibet in August, just a few months before the Chinese invasion. They rode into its capital on the backs of mules. What they saw was a civilization now lost forever.

LOWELL THOMAS: As we entered the city, we met streams of people. They were all headed toward Norbulingka. That's the summer palace of the Dalai Lama. We were arriving, so we had discovered, near the end of a week-long annual dance festival. Thousands of the inhabitants of Lhasa were on their way there. The most exotic rainbow colored spectacle we had ever seen, that crowd pouring through the streets.

At any rate, here we are at last in Lhasa, the city nearly every traveler dreams of, but that so few have ever seen.

MARY LOSURE: The Thomases saw fluttering prayer flags in huge monasteries. They met the Dalai Lama, then a teenager in his summer palace. They saw a world so different from their own, they said it was not just like traveling to another time, but to another planet. The two broadcasters were allowed into this mysterious place because after centuries of isolation, suddenly, Tibet was looking to the world for help.

In China, communist forces under Mao Zedong had just defeated the army of Chiang Kai-shek, and Mao had declared his intention to liberate Tibet. The Thomases were taken to review the Tibetan troops as they prepared to meet the invasion.

LOWELL THOMAS: We were told that the army is the only organization in the country that has changed in any way for countless centuries. Tibetan soldiers wear the British uniform of about World War I vintage. They had three bands performing for us. And most astounding to me, a group of bagpipers. The tunes played by these musicians, if they can be termed such, were another surprise. Marching through Georgia, that Civil War tune that still rouses some who live below the Mason-Dixon line. "God Save the King," and even "Auld Lang Syne." Let's listen to them for a moment.


MARY LOSURE: Tibet's military resistance lasted only a few weeks. Over time, the practice of Buddhism was forbidden by the Chinese. Tibet's ancient festivals were banned. Those who resisted the Chinese were put into prisons and labor camps. All but a handful of Tibet's monasteries were damaged or destroyed, shelled or dynamited into ruins. The Dalai Lama and tens of thousands of his followers fled to Nepal and India.

It's night in Minneapolis, and Tenshu and other Tibetans are lighting candles to mark International Human Rights Day, December 10th. Walking through streets lit up for Christmas, they're chanting Buddhist prayers.


The candlelight shines up on their faces. And despite the fact they're protesting massive human rights abuses, the mood of the procession seems more festive than angry. In the land surrounded by mountains, may peace come very soon, they chant. May the Dalai Lama live 1,000 years. The soft lights of the 60 or so Tibetans stretch for more than a block. Suddenly, their procession runs smack into another one of a completely different sort.

(SINGING) It's a sight on winter's evening

And a twinkling by the rain

The Tibetans fall silent as the holiday floats go by in front of them, blocking their path. Dancers dressed like Bo Peep and her sheep, Little Miss Muffet and the Three Little Pigs, have electric light bulbs all over their costumes. It seems as though the Tibetan procession will be ruined. But leader Thupten Dadak doesn't see it that way. To him, the sudden appearance of a holiday parade is a good sign. An omen for the future freedom of Tibet.

THUPTEN DADAK: I think this is very auspicious for us.


THUPTEN DADAK: Because we didn't never thought those people coming here to see the parade. And in a Tibetan Buddhist sense, something this happened, then it means we have fully human rights someday. These are very auspicious days. Celebrating. Celebrating for freedom of Tibet. For the future.

MARY LOSURE: The Tibetans are beginning to walk in time to the music, swaying and smiling. They have turned their procession at a right angle, and now they're walking alongside the parade.

THUPTEN DADAK: I was talking to one Tibetan guy. And he said, one day, we will be celebrating like this in Lhasa. In capital of Tibet.


MARY LOSURE: For another block or so, the Tibetan procession and the holiday parade continue side by side. Then, the parade comes to the end of its route, the lights are turned off, and Miss Muffet, Bo Peep, and the rest head out for home. As they're leaving, one of the Three Little Pigs raises his fist in salute.

MASCOT: Free Tibet!

CROWD: Free Tibet!

MASCOT: Free Tibet!

MARY LOSURE: Now and then, someone else raises a hand and calls out "Free Tibet." But in most of the spectators, there's no hint of understanding. A few of the Tibetans in this same procession have risked their lives to demonstrate in Tibet before escaping to India. In Tibet, they saw their friends shot dead beside them in the street. Here, nobody's shot, but no one seems to be paying much attention either. There are no TV cameras, no newspaper reporters, as Tewang Gil speaks.

TEWANG GIL: The candle that we hold here today is nothing but it is the flame of truth. And we are fighting for the flame of truth, and we are very convinced. We have strong belief that a day will come when the flames of Tibet's freedom will emerge out like this. Thank you very much.

MARY LOSURE: The Tibetans are here on a mission to get support from Americans for an independent Tibet. While they wait for the world to change, the Tibetans are visitors in a vastly different culture. One they do not mean to adopt entirely. They keep their ancient customs alive, tending them like a flame, like the butter lamp that burns all day in Tenshu's apartment.


It's Thursday afternoon, and Tenshu has just come back home after finishing her shift at the laundry. At the altar, she empties each silver bowl and stacks it upside down, ready to be filled with new water the next morning. The mantra she recites is a prayer of compassion for all living things, one known to Tibetans everywhere.

TENZIN: When taking down the thing, water, I just say--


Means, let it be whatever I have done, whatever I have offered. Let it be benefited to all the sentient beings. At the same time, you visualize the God, you know. If you don't know any god, you just visualize His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. Because he's a living person in God. He's God himself. But he's living, see.

MARY LOSURE: Tenshu says without the help and guidance of the Dalai Lama and the spiritual peace that comes from their prayers and daily rituals, Tibetans would never have been able to come to this country.

TENZIN SHUTEN: In times of difficulty, in times of enjoyment, in times of sorrow, for every little thing we do, His Holiness, we praise or give thanks to His Holiness.

MARY LOSURE: When the opportunity first came to send 1,000 Tibetans to America, many people worried that such a tiny number of uprooted Tibetans set down in a vast strange country would lose their culture and identity. But in the end, the Tibetans decided to take the risk. They decided having communities in this country working to free Tibet was worth a high price. Rinchen Dharlo is the Dalai Lama's representative in America.

RINCHEN DHARLO: Of course, to some extent, the next generation will lose their culture. But we do not mind if the national identity and culture of a small group of Tibetans is lost if we are able to save the majority of the Tibetans in Tibet. If we are able to save the national identity of six million Tibetans in Tibet, then we really don't mind if 1,000 Tibetans are going to lose their culture eventually.


MARY LOSURE: In the small backyard of a house in Minneapolis Tibetans, have gathered to celebrate Losar, the Tibetan New Year. They drape strings of brightly colored prayer flags between their yards to scrubby trees. They build a fire of cedar and sprinkle it with offerings. They sit close together on mattresses in the snow. Leaning on each other, they chant from yellowed prayer books.

Tenshu and the other women wear their long dresses. The men wear belted robes and gold brocade hats. Aside from the bright spectacle of the Tibetans, there's no sign of life in the neighborhood, abandoned on a weekday morning. Only the constant traffic which, as Sultan Kalsang notices, doesn't even slow down as it passes.

SULTAN KALSANG: I was just comparing. We are here in a relaxing mood doing all these things. And just in front of us, the cars are moving so fast. Like in India or Nepal, if you are doing something, Nepalese or Indians, they will just gather around and see what is going on. And in America, except you and one or two friends, they all are busy.


MARY LOSURE: The Tibetans join in a circle and call out three times, asking the deities to bless the new year. They throw roasted barley flour into the air as they did each year in Nepal and India, as they once did in Tibet.

The Tibetans put their arms around each other's shoulders and begin to dance around the fire. The fragrant smoke rises in a cloud above the neighborhood, whose gray streets in this moment seem transformed.



PAULA SCHROEDER: Far From the Mountains was written and produced by Minnesota Public Radio's Mary Losure in cooperation with Soundprint, the weekly documentary program. Funding was provided by the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts and by the members of Minnesota Public Radio.

GARY EICHTEN: This is midday on Minnesota Public Radio, and I'm Gary Eichten. And joining us now for the rest of this hour are Thupten and Tara Dadak of the Tibetan American Foundation of Minnesota. They've been good enough to come by to take some questions on Tibet and the Tibetans who have come to America. Thanks so much for coming in. Sure appreciate it.

TARA DADAK: Great to be here.

GARY EICHTEN: Well first of all, what'd you think of the documentary? Pretty accurate representation of your situation?

THUPTEN DADAK: Very good. Very well done. I'm very pleased.

GARY EICHTEN: Thupten, when did you come to America?

THUPTEN DADAK: I came here in 1986.

GARY EICHTEN: And you left Tibet when?

THUPTEN DADAK: 1963. When I was six years old.

GARY EICHTEN: So you've been gone a long time.


GARY EICHTEN: And you were around-- you lived in Tibet for, what, four years after the Dalai Lama.

THUPTEN DADAK: Yes. And then I come to Nepal to India. And I went to a school in India and then joined the monastery later.

GARY EICHTEN: Do you think you'll ever actually be able to return to Tibet?

THUPTEN DADAK: I do have very confident, because one thing, that the world is changing very fast. Either since it's not going to happen because of the Chinese transfer to Tibet. And they use Tibetan natural resources, destroying and everything. But I do have confidence because of the Dalai Lama is very well known leader in the world. And hopefully his message will cross by and people can able to help for the freedom issue.

TARA DADAK: I think that what gives me great confidence, and I know it's used in a different context, but President Clinton continues to say this is a whole new world. And I really believe that's true. Everything that has happened-- things happen very suddenly. And of course in the Buddhist sense, change is inevitable. That's the only thing we can count on.

And we just hope that due to the kindness certainly of Congress that has been really pushing for recognition of Tibet and the situation in Tibet, that change will turn. We can facilitate change for the benefit of the Tibetan people, who are suffering tremendously as we speak now.

GARY EICHTEN: How do you see that occupation coming to an end? Through some kind of military action? Through a voluntary withdrawal by the Chinese? Any--

TARA DADAK: I think that one thing that has been said is that China has swallowed up Tibet. But they can't really swallow it down. It's sticking in their throat. And it's in 35, 40 years of occupation, Tibetans refuse to lie down and behave as the Chinese people have always behaved, where you just follow the rules. They say, just follow the rules. Everything will be fine. Just go along with the program.

And Tibetans refuse. They want to be free. They want their national identity.

GARY EICHTEN: Is there a lot of active resistance in Tibet?

THUPTEN DADAK: Yes. Actually, Tibetan culture and religion is very strong outside Tibet. Either inside Tibet-- I know who people who live under China, they don't have free to do things, social things, as we do here. But still individual that the Chinese cannot destroy the mind. I think the human being has such intelligent mind rather than the other life.

So that is a very, very strong, even living under the guns or under the violent. Still, they are confident. They keep their culture, religion, as well as issue for freedom.

TARA DADAK: The amazing thing is that the Tibetans have seen what has happened to people who try to do demonstrations, who write a poem about the Dalai Lama. Who would try to walk in the street with a flag. I mean, everything totally non-violent. They have seen what has happened to other people. And yet they still go out and demonstrate, are arrested, are tortured. In this past year, from the 1st of January '93 to August, there have been more arrests in Tibet than all of '92, which, of course, were greater than '91.

So the momentum is growing. And a lot of it has to do with the utter confidence that the Tibetan people have in the Western world. They feel that they are not alone, no matter what the Chinese keep telling them. You're isolated, you're alone. No one is coming to rescue you. No one will come. They don't believe it.

GARY EICHTEN: Was there any change at all for the better? We heard reports from China proper, especially when the Chinese were trying to get the bid for the Olympic games, that they were backing off a little bit in some of the more repressive things they were up to. Did that affect Tibet at all?

TARA DADAK: There are very sophisticated techniques that the Chinese use. When they travel around the United States in order to get more money for their business propositions that they're using to bring factories and different things into Tibet, which, of course, are not for the benefit of the Tibetans. But when they go around the country, they have some of the most sophisticated PR firms that money can buy. That have groomed these spokespeople from the Chinese embassies and the Chinese ambassador. It's very, very slick.

When I attended one of these meetings, the Chinese ambassador said, we have human rights in China. They're just not the same kind of human rights that you have in the United States. But we have human rights. Everyone is free to have a house, and everyone is free to have food.

GARY EICHTEN: Well now, the Chinese essentially took over Tibet in 1949, correct?


GARY EICHTEN: The Dalai Lama did not leave until 1959. The first 10 years of the occupation, were they fairly benign? Did everyone get along reasonably well?

THUPTEN DADAK: No. No, at all. When they first started, as they said, we come to help you to build up the road and build the electricities. As you were talking about in the documentary, Tibet is very isolated. And we are not a developed country, you know. So they tried to come to help.

And I was talking a group of people in a social service yesterday. And I'm telling them, the Chinese is like almost a cockroach. Once cockroach come in your kitchen, they are very, very sweet and look very nice, and very gentle animal. But then they come more and more and more and more. They destroy everything. They are putting poison, like as the food.

So similar like the Chinese did for the Tibetan, they come like as a cockroach. They come one, two, three. Then more and more and more. Now there's eight million Chinese. And the Tibetan, four or five million.

TARA DADAK: One thing also is that when you look at the geography of Tibet, you see that Lhasa is quite far from the Chinese border. It's almost to the Nepal border, if you look at the map. And significant mountain ranges between. So without roads, they had no chance of getting to Lhasa. So until those roads were built. And the Khampa people who were between Lhasa, they were the freedom fighters.

I mean, they're like cowboys. It was like the Old West. And they would come swooping out of the mountains and attacking these road crews who were actually Chinese soldiers that were building these roads. And they were able to hold off this move from the Chinese border to Lhasa for many years at a great cost in lives. They were great heroes.

THUPTEN DADAK: Now the capital Lhasa is almost like a prison came. There are criminals standing from inside China to resettle there. And Tibetan population is as a prison camp. And they don't have any rights to do things. Now since the opening the tourists, they say, well, you can practice your religion or whatever you want. But you can't teach someone.

That means they are totally destroying the culture, religion, generation. There are starvations. They have sterilized. They have no any more for the babies to be born in Tibet. So China's whole Tibet is, I believe, as like a prison camp.

GARY EICHTEN: I want to get to some callers here, but I do want to ask one other question. If you could try to look at this from the other side for a moment, what is the Chinese justification for occupying Tibet? Do they argue that Tibet is not actually a country? That it historically has belonged to China, it's just part of China. Is that the argument?

THUPTEN DADAK: The argument, I think, the Chinese claim as Tibet is a part of China. And the reality there is they are looking benefits for natural resource. The border to India, Nepal.

TARA DADAK: Gold. Minerals.

THUPTEN DADAK: Also to [? Mongolia. ?] As Tibet is big land. Tibet is almost the size of Australia. And that they'll actually come to use our land.

TARA DADAK: Deforestation is one of them.

THUPTEN DADAK: Deforestation is the number one. And they alluded to all this spiritual images built by a lot of gold and other precious metals and precious stones. And now they're selling all over market in Taiwan.

TARA DADAK: They called it the great treasure house. That's what the Chinese called Tibet. And I must qualify this, though, that you had said, no babies are born in Tibet. Because, I mean, it's extremely upsetting the forced sterilization that has gone on. Of course, there are babies that are being born there. But there are many infanticides performed through injections of the newborns, as well as forced sterilization. That is a terrible part of genocide.

GARY EICHTEN: Our guest during the hour-- excuse me, Thupten and Tara Dadak of the Tibetan American Foundation of Minnesota. Let's take some callers with questions and comments. Hi, you're on Minnesota Public Radio.

CALLER: Hello?

GARY EICHTEN: Yes, go ahead.

CALLER: Hi there. Tashi delek to everyone. My question is, how can we in Minneapolis or Minnesota help the new community that's come in?

THUPTEN DADAK: There are many ways. Right now, we have no cultural center. We are gathering some churches and we are looking for-- the most difficulty now, we need some cultural center that are providing material. Or you can provide money. That is one most important part.

And then small things. We need also volunteers who can taught driving or English as a second language. So those are the most important we need.

TARA DADAK: We also need very basic and continued support of the question of Tibet to our elected representatives. There has been just a tremendous outpouring of support, and Congress has heard. But unless we continue that support, it will fade very quickly. And right now I think is a very, very critical time that is being passed through. Because not only for the exile community who are living as refugees, all of these people have-- many of the people who are here were born as refugees. They've never even seen Tibet.

But how critical the issue is now because of the deforestation. Tibet is being destroyed at such a rapid rate. That very soon, there will be nothing left to save. Neither people, nor trees, nor the ecological system.

GARY EICHTEN: Let's take another caller with a question. Hello, you're on Minnesota Public Radio.

CALLER: And my question is, what was the exact reason at the time that China invaded Tibet? Was it just simply for the resources? Was it historical territorial claim? Or they see it as a threat, or just a buffer zone, or what?

THUPTEN DADAK: I think threat, as well as a resource. As I talked earlier, Tibet is a big land. And also there are natural resources. And also I remember one time when Dalai Lama attended one of conference in China before Chinese took over Tibet. The Mao said to Dalai Lama, young Dalai Lama, do you know the religion is a poison for the human?

So one thing, as a communist, they don't believe any religion. Doesn't matter whether you're Christian or whether you're a Buddhist or you're Indian. They don't believe at all.

TARA DADAK: Also even before Mao, everyone puts the blame on Mao because he actually did the deed.


TARA DADAK: But Chiang Kai-shek, prior to his-- he had an idea to invade Tibet as well. And because the very nature of the Chinese system is expansionism, it has taken Mongolia, it took what parts of what were the Thai people who are now living in Thailand previously lived in is now a part of China. So all of these areas that they're calling all of these ethnic groups, these 32 ethnic groups that they seem quite proud to show a culture show of these various peoples, these all were lands taken from those people who actually had independent nations.

GARY EICHTEN: Let's take another caller with a question. Hi, you're on Minnesota Public Radio.

CALLER: Hi. My name is Kevin Laneve, and I'm calling from St. Cloud, Minnesota. And I wanted to let the speakers there know that they really aren't forgotten by folks here in the United States. And I want to express my appreciation to Minnesota Public Radio for the documentary. I teach a high school social justice class in Saint Cloud. And one of the things I expose my students to is stories of groups of people who are involved in struggles for justice. And so I'm taping the program today, and I'm going to share it with my students. And I really want to indicate that those connections are happening. And it's real powerful to hear the stories that are being shared. So thank you.

THUPTEN DADAK: Thank you so much.

TARA DADAK: That's great.

GARY EICHTEN: Do you folks get discouraged, though? You have your demonstrations and so on. And I would guess most people just don't pay any attention.

THUPTEN DADAK: I do believe that people have quite taken a responsible. And as I said, American is democratic. We should look at it in a good way. And the people, I don't know, the government side, they have dealing with the business and make their personal gain. But in a publicly, I'm very encouraging how people are helping the human rights issues. And also Free Tibet. We have almost 2,000 in our mailing list who are really interested about helping human rights issues.

TARA DADAK: And the work that the international campaign for Tibet in Washington DC that has done is absolutely amazing. The kind of work that they're doing with Congress. They take congressional people over to Tibet to see firsthand what is happening. The information flow is there. Unfortunately, because Tibet is-- I mean, let's face it, Tibet has no oil. So as far as bringing an invading force sent into Tibet and freeing the Tibetan people, I don't personally see that as being something that is going to happen.

I think that world opinion is going to become so strong that the benefit of hanging on to Tibet will be less than the benefit to let it go for the benefit of saying, we're really good guys after all.

GARY EICHTEN: Well, there are a thousand Tibetans who came here under that special 1990 law setting up little communities around the country. Now are there similar communities set up in other countries, too? Little groups of Tibetans trying to stir things up?


TARA DADAK: In Switzerland, there are 2,000 Tibetans in Switzerland that have been there since the early '60s. And they have had a great influence in preserving the culture and in maintaining strong ties. And very much helping the exile government. Back in the late '70s or early '70s, over 600 Tibetans now live in Canada. But for the most part, there are 100,000 Tibetans that still live in camps. I mean, they're not very attractive places. There's no barbed wire around them. But they have never assimilated into the Indian community.

They maintain their own businesses. They really are very much isolated, even in India and Nepal. So the real strength for the Tibetan community is the connections with the West.

GARY EICHTEN: Are they accepted pretty well, though, by the Indians and by the Nepalese? Or is there tension there?

THUPTEN DADAK: Yeah, they are very acceptable. But the one serious problem now, since 1970s, they don't accept as people who try to escape from Tibet. They don't accept as a refugee.

TARA DADAK: And they're sending them back.

THUPTEN DADAK: So sending it back. And then what the Chinese does is they kill them or put in a prison whole life. So that is very upset about through Indian side border or as well as the Nepal side.

TARA DADAK: And in personality, I think the Tibetans are much more like Americans than Indian personalities. There's just a click with Americans that has made the resettlement here, particularly in the Twin Cities, which is what we're most familiar with. Thupten and I are the coordinators for the resettlement here. And bringing in, we have hundreds and hundreds of volunteers that have really found something special not only to give, but also that they have gotten back.

GARY EICHTEN: Let's take another caller with a question. Hello?

CALLER: Yes, I'm Pam from Cannon Falls. And I'm a freelance photographer. And I've just recently become interested in photographing the Tibetan people. I've done some reading. And I'm just fascinated by what's happening over there with the ecology and the deforestation. Has anyone ever documented the destruction that has occurred over there?

TARA DADAK: I think they're using aerial photography to document a lot of this. But of course, what's happening is you can see the effects of the deforestation down below. A lot of the floods that are happening in Bangladesh and the tremendous consequences of deforestation. What happens is that the snow doesn't stay in the forest because the forests aren't there, and you get an extremely rapid runoff.

And not only the runoff of soil, but the rivers are running too full and you get these enormous floods downstream. So it's the direct cause of the deforestation. As well as--

THUPTEN DADAK: Nuclear testing.

TARA DADAK: Nuclear testing.

THUPTEN DADAK: And those are really effects of it to the natural.

TARA DADAK: But you're not getting correct information. They're not allowing. The caller is asking, is there documenting? The Chinese do as they please. And they have no one to account to. There are no international organizations that they have to account to, and there are no true documentations of the extent of damage.

THUPTEN DADAK: They try to go in, I think, 2020. And then denied the visa. And also a lot of reporters tried to get into Tibet. And then they would give any visa special going there. Only what we are finding here is just private tourists bring over. And the snorkeling and then took the photos or what's happening in Tibet. All this news coming out through the individual.

GARY EICHTEN: Let's take another caller. Hello?

CALLER: Hello?

GARY EICHTEN: Yes. Go ahead, sir.

CALLER: Yeah. I'm calling from Stillwater. There are about 180 Tibetans in Minnesota. And some of the parents are going to visit their families and relatives in India and Nepal in the next couple of months. Are there any Tibetans whose relatives are in Tibet? And if so, are they allowed to go to Tibet to see their relatives and dear ones?

TARA DADAK: This extremely complicated process. Of course, all of the people that are here are here as individuals. Their families are in India. Now some of them have been separated for a year and a half or more. The children are growing. We have one lady here whose baby was only seven months old when she came. And so she has not seen that child in a year and a half. And they are becoming more and more anxious.

So those people who are going to India certainly have an opportunity to do that, even though it's very expensive. The people who want to go-- who were recent escapees from Tibet, because, of course, they couldn't come to Minnesota directly from Tibet, they escaped from Tibet and then they came from India, those people cannot go back to visit Tibet.

THUPTEN DADAK: Unless they took-- what the Chinese wants is if they carry the Chinese passport, Chinese nationality, then they can give the visa.

TARA DADAK: Even though they're green card permanent residents here.

THUPTEN DADAK: Then you're taking the risk. There might be say, no, you can't go back. Because you're carrying the Chinese government document. So if you carry travel documents issued by the American government, that denied the visa. So it's very hard to say.

GARY EICHTEN: Do most of the Tibetans who are here now plan to stay here permanently?


GARY EICHTEN: Become US citizens and everything, or what?

THUPTEN DADAK: And of Free Tibet, they're all going to stay.

GARY EICHTEN: Last question for you. Because unfortunately, we're about out of time here. This has just flown by. Isn't it difficult for people to come from what sounds to be a very spiritual culture and come here? I mean, this is--


America is many things, but a spiritual culture, I'm not sure that we would qualify for.

THUPTEN DADAK: In the sense of spiritual, in Tibetan Buddhism, say, everything may be happening. But it's not ever be a permanent. Anything exists as a permanent. So in a sense of that, even we never see material or developed country like this for no one from the Tibetans. So we are not still surprising how this-- because as--

TARA DADAK: I think what he's saying is that in the Buddhist sense is that manifestation of everything is possible. Anything can happen in manifestation. And so you have a tremendous variety of manifestation. And because the nature of all of this manifestation is change, that you shouldn't necessarily say, this manifestation is really great and this manifestation is really-- it all simply is what it is.

And the underlying humanity of people who is even in the West, we have a feeling like we're suffering. And in the East, they're suffering. So we have more common bonds than there is differences.

GARY EICHTEN: Thanks so much for coming in. I wish we had a lot more time to talk about this. If people want to get a hold of the Tibetan American Foundation, how do you do that?

TARA DADAK: You can call Heart of Tibet at 822-3535. And it's--

THUPTEN DADAK: It's a Tibetan cultural center. It's a business as well as a cultural center.

GARY EICHTEN: Thanks so much for coming in. Our guests today, Thupten and Tara Dadak of the Tibetan American Foundation of Minnesota. Again, thanks for coming in. And thanks to all of you who've called in with your questions.

THUPTEN DADAK: I'd like to thank you, Minnesota Public Radio. And--

GARY EICHTEN: Thanks so much. Really appreciate it.


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