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Hmong People

This page gives you information about the past and present of the Hmong people.



Hmong Today 

Hmong people today are spread out all over the world.  There is heavy concentrations in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, California, and areas of Wisconsin.  Recent estimates show that there is around 200,000 Hmong people in the United States.  China continues to have the largest population of Hmong people at right around 2 million.  

Many Hmong today still embrace their culture.  However I have noticed that most Hmong under the age of 30 speak in English first and Hmong second.  Whereas the over 30 crowd tend to speak Hmong first and English second.   

 

Hmong History 

Hmong people generally come from the hill and mountain area just south of China. According to genetic evidence, Hmong people lived in China for 2000 years before generally migrating south in the 1700s. They moved to escape the oppressive Qing Dynasty.

 

Most Hmong in the United States come from Laos, but there are many others from Thailand, Vietnam and China. Hmong people have their own language in a couple different styles of dialect.

 

Most Hmong people came over to the US after the Vietnam War. Although they are generally peaceful, during the war they were recruited by the CIA to act as spies. Shortly after the US pulled out of the war, a new leader came to power in Laos. The Hmong were persecuted for their anti-communist involvement in the war and many of them fled to Thailand refugee camps.

 

In the late 1980s many Hmong people came to the United States after being sponsored by the Lutheran church. The majority relocated to St. Paul, Minnesota and Fresno, California. There is also heavy Hmong populations in Wisconsin and some in Pennsylvania.

 

Although there is not a single government out there that will acknowledge it, there are still many Hmong people in Laos who are being persecuted.

 

 

Hmong Time Line

3000 B.C.  -  Hmong people are first identified as occupying the Yellow River Valley in China.  

1100 B.C.  -  Hmong people are still inhabiting the jungles and hills of China.

1800 -  Hmong people begin to move to Indochina.

1810  -  Hmong people cross the borders of China into Northern Laos.  This is a mountain area that allows for a somewhat safe cover.

1840  -  The vast majority of Hmong migrate to Laos to avoid oppression.

1893  -  The French setup a protectorate over Laos.

1896  -  Angered by the new French taxes, Hmong revolt.

1936  -  From 1936-1945 Japan takes control of Laos while WWII wages on.

1945  -  With World War II over, the French once again resume control of Laos.

1952  -  A Hmong writing system is designed to finally put the Hmong language on paper.

1954  -  Laos gains independence and becomes a member of the United Nations.

1957  -  American soldiers enter Laos to train the Hmong and fight against the communists.

1960  -  The "Secret War" begins in Laos as Hmong people are beginning to launch deadly guerrilla warfare.

1961  -  General Vang Pao leads the Hmong people into secret battles and works closely with the United States from 1961-1973.

1973  -  A ceasefire is signed between the Royal Lao Government and the Pathet Lao.  

1975  -  A significant year in Hmong history -  Americans are completely withdrawn from Laos and the massacring of Hmong people begins immediately.  Hmong Army officials including Vao Pang are airlifted to Thailand.  Hmong families are forced to attempt a life-                          threatening escape from Laos across the Mekong into the Thailand Refugee camps.

1976  -  The first wave of Hmong immigrants begin to arrive in the United States.

1982  -  Still being eradicated by the Royal Laos government in Laos and hungry in Thailand refugee camps, a second wave of migration into the U.S. begins and lasts over 4 years.  The Lutheran church is very involved in the relocating process. 

1991  -  Thailand, Laos, and the United Nations sign an agreement that will move Hmong people from  the refugee camps and back into Laos.  Knowing they are still oppressed back in Laos, 10,000 flee to a Thai Buddhist temple to seek asylum.

2002  -  Senator Mee Moua becomes the first Hmong senator.

2004  -  Another larger group of Hmong people arrives in the United States.  There is a steady flow every year in the area of 1000-5000 immigrants. 

TODAY -  Many Hmong people have found their way back to Thai refugee camps as the Royal Lao Government continues to harass the Hmong Culture. 

 
 
 Several hundred thousand Hmong people took the treacherous voyage on foot through the Laotian countryside and across the Mekong River into Thailand in the two decades following the communist occupation in Laos in 1975. Awaiting them on the other side of the Mekong were rudimentary refugee camps: Nong Khai, Ban Vinai, Chiang Kham, and Ban Nam Yao.  Ban Vinai and Chiang Kham camp consisted of mostly Hmong refugees.  

The first group of an estimated 25,000 Hmong refugees reached Thailand in May of 1975.  The first wave of refugees can be categorized as entering camps from 1975 to 1977.  This group consisted mostly of soldiers and their families that fought against the communist during the war. The second wave last from 1978 to 1982.  In the year 1979, there was an estimated 60,000 refugees residing in camps in Thailand with close to 3,000 Hmong crossing the Mekong monthly to find refuge in Thailand. During the third wave, from 1982 to 1986, the amount of Hmong refugees increased still. 

 Circumstances in the camps varied from barely tolerable to appalling.   At the beginning, there were no toilets and no water for people wash themselves.  The Hmong traditional way of life was to grow and harvest their food.  There definitely was no land allotted for them to do so.  There was also virtually no way to make money to purchase Hmong food either.  The camp had grown to a size that it could no longer support by the mid-1980s.  The Hmong refugee camps could no longer afford to offer somewhere to house its many thousands of inhabitants.  In 1986 there was an estimated 43,000 to 45,000 people living on less than 1 square mile in Ban Vinai.  Most families’ tradional way of life gave way to depending on what was handed out as rations at the camps. Because Hmong culture was so important to them, Hmong refugees still managed to create a culturally familiar way of life in these conditions. They still celebrated holidays such as the New Year.  Children went to Thai elementary school and adults could attend English and vocational-training classes but Hmong language was still their number one language. Also, there were markets that sold fresh fish and fruit and herbal medicines. 
 
 
By 1986 the average length of stay for a Hmong refugee was about seven years. More than 90% of Hmong refugees in Thailand had been accepted for passage to the United States because of their help in the war.  The refugees that stayed in the camps instead of moving to a third country had their reasons.  Some wanted to stay in the camps in hopes that they could return to Laos at a later date without suffering reprisals.  Some were waiting for relatives to join them from Laos to resettle in a different country.  Some refugees had heard back from friends or family about how difficult life was in the United States and so they were reluctant to make the move.  Many Hmong had dreams of staying in Thailand and call it home.  

The unwillingness of Hmong refugees to leave Thailand was of immense worry for the Thai government. Over the years the Thai had provided haven for up to 200,000 refugees but they had always let it be known that settling there was not an option.  Though the arrival of Hmong refugees began to decline in later years, the populations in the camps continued growing due high birth rates.  The Thai government developed a policy designed to encourage current refugees to move to the United States or return to Laos.  They started to enforce strict border screenings for Hmong people wanting refuge in Thailand.  They consolidated camps and developed more strict policies to control camp life.  Thai authorities reduced food rations and limited work opportunities and education.  Ban Vinai was closed eventually closed in 1992.  The refugees still residing in Ban Vinai would be sent to a temporary camp to await their return to Laos.  Thousands of Hmong refugees attempted to hide in the Northern plains and Thai countryside fearing the closure of Ban Vai.

In 1990, an estimated 90,000 Hmong refugees had moved the United States to restart their lives.  Some also went to France, Canada, Australia, Argentine and French Guyana.  Since then, and another estimated 60,000 have moved to these countries with a majority residing in the United States.

 




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