Bhutan is a small Asian country nestled between China and India, in close proximity to Nepal where most of the Bhutanese refugees originated. When they immigrated to southern Bhutan in the 1800′s, they brought a strong Nepali culture and identity. Since that time, southern Bhutanese have been kept largely separate from the dominant groups living in the north. In the 1980′s, hundreds of thousands of these southern Bhutanese were expelled from Bhutan in an effort by the North to rid the country of Nepali influence.
Almost 97% of Bhutanese refugees are ethnic Nepalis and speak Nepali as a first or second language. Approximately 1/3 of refugees know some English.
60% of Bhutanese are Hindu, 27% are Buddhist, and approximately 10% are Kirat, which is an indigenous religion. The remaining small percentage is Christian.
Since last year alone, almost 200 displaced Bhutanese refugees have been resettled in Vermont, primarily from refugee camps in Nepal where they have been in exile for nearly 20 years.