Collection Description

Brief Culture Description

Culture Name

North American Hmong

Culture Description

The Hmong originated in the Yellow and Yangtze River regions of China, moving to the mountains of Vietnam, Thailand, and Laos in the early 1800s. The resettlement of Hmong people from Laos to North America is a direct result of fighting on the United States' side in the Vietnam War. Many Hmong fled to Laos refugee camps after the war and were resettled in North America. Originally the Hmong were dispersed to small communities across United States and Canada. By the late 1980s, secondary migration resulted in ethnic enclave formation in particular areas. The largest consolidations of Hmong people are found in Minnesota, California and Wisconsin. Hmong in North America are employed in many different kinds of wage labor ranging from farming and factory work to social service work. Hmong are beginning to enter the legal and medical professions in significant numbers, and are increasingly being promoted to business and social service management positions.


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North America --Regional and Ethnic Cultures



United States

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Collection Information

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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF collection and are referenced by author, date of publication, and eHRAF document number.

The North American Hmong file consists of 36 English language documents representing a wide range of studies having as a common theme the cultural adaptation of an immigrant group to mainstream American (i.e., United States) society. These studies generally cover the period from 1975, with the first major emigration of Hmong from Southeast Asia to the United States, to the 1990s. Although the Hmong are scattered throughout North America in a number of ethnic communities, the major emphasis in this file is on those groups located in the western, midwestern, and eastern areas of the United States. Despite the fact that much of the traditional ethnographic data are relevant to the period when the Hmong, then known as Miao (Meo), were resident in Southeast Asia, this information does provide a basis for an understanding of the manner in which Hmong society has changed in the adjustment to life in the United States. Many customs have been dropped entirely or modified to conform to the cultural patterns of American society. As a result nearly all the documents in this file deal in varying degrees with problems of assimilation, acculturation, contact with non-Hmong populations, and the accompanying psychological distress that often results from these dynamic processes.

There is no major work in this file that furnishes a comprehensive study of all Hmong immigrants in the United States, although the work by Dunnigan et al. (1996, no. 33), does provide a brief survey of their ethnology from approximately 1975-1990s. This study concentrates on Hmong economy, education, marriage practices, community politics, and cultural adaptation to life in the United states. Other major topics which are given special attention in this file are: education (Strouse, 1985, no. 10; Weinstein-Shr, 1987, no. 12; Hvitfeldt, 1983, no. 13; Janssens, 1987, no. 17; Trueba, 1990, no. 18; and McNall, 1994, no. 37), PAJ NTAUB, the technique of embroidery applique (Peterson, 1990, no. 9; and Hafner-Hoppenworth, 1989, no. 16), the role of dress in the formulation of Hmong American cultural life (Lynch, 1995, 1996, nos. 35 and 36), women's roles and activities (Koltyk, 1998, no. 34; Lynch, 1996, no. 36), and the cultivation and use of medicinal plants in treating illness (Spring, 1989, no. 38).

For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this file, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

This culture summary and accompanying bibliography were jointly prepared by Julie Keown-Bomar and Timothy Dunnigan in December 1999. We also thank Julie Keown-Bomar and Timothy Dunnigan for making suggestion about documents to include in this file. The synopsis and indexing notes were written by John Beierle in April 2000.

Collection Indexing Notes

Asian Community Service -- category 747

Asian Needlecrafters (AN) -- a needlework handicraft cooperative -- category 474

CAJ CES (root branch) -- a lineage -- category 613

CHO PLI -- a feast and special ceremony held one year after death (called "soul release") -- category 369

DAB -- spirits -- category 776

General Vang Pao, biographical information -- categories 701 and 555

ginseng, growing of -- category 249

Hmong Mutual Assistance Associations (MAA'S) -- categories 476, 456, 747

Hmong National Development -- category 179

I CHU -- the thirteen days after burial when the soul is changing into a spiritual or divine state -- category 775

job training programs -- category 474

KHAWV KOD -- sorcerer, magician -- categories 754, 791

KWS TSHUAJ -- herbalists -- category 759

Lao Family Community Inc. -- a social service organization -- category 747

MPEG -- catch-hand marriage -- category 583

Neighbor's Place -- category 529

NGE (NQE) MIS -- "milk price", price of nurture; bride price -- category 583

NTSUJ (PLIG) -- the soul -- category 774

PAJ NTAUB (PA NDAU) -- "flowery cloth"; the name for the embroidery, applique or batik technique used by Hmong women -- categories 5311, 294

PAWG NEEG -- a sub-lineage; the largest kinship unit capable of collective action -- category 613

PHIJ CUAM -- the dowry -- category 583

SAIB YAIG -- fortune tellers -- categories 791, 787

Seattle Project -- categories 747, 874

shelters, public -- category 747 (sometimes with 593)

story cloths -- embroidery works depicting historical events -- categories 294, 5311

sub-lineages -- a kinship group consisting of nuclear families -- categories 594, 613

TIS NPE LAUG (Old Name Ceremony) -- category 553

TLAN -- spirits -- category 776

TSEV NEEG -- extended families -- category 596

TXI NENG (TXU NEEB) -- the Hmong shaman -- category 756

Video Cassette Recorder (VCR) -- categories 215, 216

XEEM -- exogamous patri-clans -- category 614

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