Indian Culture Rises As NWA Population Grows In Diversity

Bentonville, Ark. (KFSM) — Diversity in Northwest Arkansas is changing by the day and seems to be shaping the economy, education and growth of one or the fastest growing areas in the U.S.

The growth includes thousands from India who now call Northwest Arkansas home. Many moved here for employment opportunities such as I.T. jobs within Wal-Mart.

Diversity in Northwest Arkansas looks nothing like it did 30 years ago when the population was predominately white.

NWA's population has more than doubled today, and within that is a massive spike in cultural diversity.

"For example, in Bentonville, we see the Indian population. In Springdale, we see the Marshallese population," said Margot Lemaster, the Executive Director of Engage NWA. "In Northwest Arkansas, across our school districts, there are nearly 70 different languages spoken."

The Asian population is predicted to be at 23,000 in the next couple of years.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Asian population consists of people from the far east such as China, India, Korea or Pakistan, to name a few.

A look at one of those cultures, the Indian culture shows growth in population.

The Northwest Arkansas Council estimates Bentonville schools have 335 students from India who speak Telegu, Tamil or Hindi.

In India, cricket is the most popular sport, and it is now a big part of the culture in Northwest Arkansas. In the last 10 years, the sport has grown from practicing on makeshift fields in Rogers and Bentonville, to now, a league with dozens of teams competing regionally.

Players with NWA Cricket, who practice in these fields and belong to the league, said they welcome anyone to join and feel the league has been an essential part of making friends within the community.

"The game brought us together," said player Vishal Gandhi.

Many of the team members work for giants like Wal-Mart and J.B. Hunt and plan to stick around.

"I don't think I'll move anywhere else," Gandhi said.

With businesses like Indian grocery stores and restaurants popping up around Northwest Arkansas, the culture is becoming a staple in the area.

Experts like those with the NWA Council said as we prepare to go into the launch of the 2020 census, cultural diversity in Northwest Arkansas is something we can expect to see grow for years to come.

"I think that everyone in Northwest Arkansas benefits from the growing Indian population and the richness that that brings to our region," Lemaster said.

The U.S government has hired a half-million temporary workers to conduct the 2020 census. This will be the first year the census can done online. A paper version will still be available for those who want one. The headcount will begin on April first.

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