First, there are thousands of Somalis in Minnesota and I am sure most of them have different reasons why they came to live here. For me it was to see a familiar face. My plane (not a bus or a boat) landed in Cincinnati, Ohio. I lived in Kentucky, then Atlanta, Georgia, then Columbus, Ohio. This traveling around took about a year. For that year, I was a little bit lost and was searching for a home and to be with people I knew from Somalia. There was nothing wrong with those states but the people I stayed with were people I met in America. So when I found a relative of mine who used to live with us in Kenya, I packed up and left Ohio for Minnesota.
Another reason why Somalis came to live in Minnesota is that Somali-Minnesotans are good advertisers. While I was traveling around, I used to get calls from people in Minnesota, telling me how wonderful it was. Some of them I didn’t know, but they heard I was new to the country and was thinking about moving to Minnesota. They would say this was the reason they were calling. It is, I think, part of our culture to give unwanted advice.
Some of the things I was told about Minnesota and why I should move here were that jobs were plentiful, that I could go to school if I wanted, and that I would always find cheap housing. And there were many non-profit organizations and other Somalis who would help me with any other issues.
Minnesota is a great state. A lot of Somalis were brought here by Lutheran Social Service back in the 90s. And a lot of Somalis brought here to America due to the civil war of 1991 and moved to Minnesota from other states for jobs. Almost every Somali in Minnesota who came here between 1991 and 1998 worked at the chicken factories in Faribault and Marshall.
If we look at it as a whole, why Somalis settled in some states and not others can be traced back to how we lived in Somalia. Most Somali people were nomads back home since the beginning of time. How nomadic society works is that people move around in groups and basically follow the weather. They move to where it rains. And instead of moving a large group of settlers, they will send a person to see how the water is (the place where it rained), and if it is worthy of moving to. They try to figure out how long can they live there, for example, until the water runs out and the other resources are depleted.
Although most Somalis in America are city people, the old ways of nomadic life, I think, still live inside of us. In my opinion, most Somalis would move to a place where they know someone, or where there are Somalis in general, whether they knew them personally or not.