Somalis in Minnesota

Somalia is a country on the eastern edge of Africa, often called the “Horn of Africa”.  The population of the country was between 7-10 million (before 1991).  Somali’s speak the same language by and large, which is Somali.

During colonial times, Somalia was divided into Italian Somaliland (southern Somalia), British Somaliland (northern Somalia), and French Somaliland (Djibouti).  The north and the south gained independence in the early 1960’s and united to form one country, Somalia.  This country had a democratic government until there was a military coup in 1969, led by Siad Barre.  He maintained power until a revolt within the country started in the late ‘80’s in the north and eventually led to him fleeing the country in the early 1990’s.

Different clans fought among themselves to gain control of the country, which led to civil war and anarchy.  A resulting famine, exacerbated by the civil strife gained world attention, leading to U.N. and finally U.S. military involvement.  After the killing of U.S. troops, they all pulled out of Somalia.

From that time to the present, Somalis have fled the country and many have lived in refugee camps in Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania.  Many Somalis were resettled in Europe, Canada, and the U.S. Currently, Minnesota has the largest number of Somali’s in the U.S, estimated to be around 77,000 or more. Why here?  Somalis originally came to Minnesota because of the good economy and low unemployment.  More recently they have come because there is a recognized community here — Somali shops, businesses and restaurants.

No discussion of the Somali people would be complete without discussing their religion, which is Islam.  To be a Somali, is to be Muslim.  With the war and displacement, many Somali’s have seen their difficulties as a judgment of God (Allah), for not correctly practicing their religion.   In response to this, there has been a revival of religious observance.

Additional Resources

The Somalis: Their History and Culture
from Cultural Orientation Resource Center

Immigration in Minnesota
from Minneapolis Foundation

Somali Adult Literacy Training (SALT)
Are you interested in teaching English to Somali adults? Learn how you can volunteer with Arrive Ministries through our program SALT by clicking the link above.

Important Facts:
• Minnesota has the largest number of Somalis in the U.S. – estimated to be around 77,000
• Minneapolis is home to hundreds of Somali-owned and operated businesses offering a variety of products and services