Hmong New Year celebration at Metrodome canceled as result of roof collapse

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Organizers of the Hmong New Year celebration in Minneapolis have canceled the event following the collapse of the Metrodome's roof.

The event was set for Saturday and Sunday at the Dome but has been called off altogether.

Tong Yang, president of the event, said the board of directors searched for a new venue, including the Minneapolis Convention Center. But, Yang said, "they don't have an opening for us."

An estimated 40,000 people were expected to attend the Hmong New Year celebration in Minneapolis. A Hmong New Year celebration was also held last month at the RiverCentre in St. Paul.

According to Yang, anyone who purchased advance tickets for the Minneapolis event can get a refund.

Organizers said they've lost $35,000 in advertising and nonrefundable deposits.

The Metrodome's inflatable roof collapsed Dec. 12 after a snowstorm dumped 17 inches of snow on the Twin Cities. The collapse also forced the Minnesota Vikings to move their final two home games.



Two Hmong New Year Celebrations in Fresno

Monday, December 27, 2010

Fresno – It's known as the biggest celebration of its kind in the country, but this year, the Hmong new year celebration is divided.

There are two different events, going on at the same time in Fresno.

It was business as usual at the Fresno Fairgrounds, where thousands of people came, to celebrate the Hmong new year.

"This is the last and biggest Hmong new year celebration in the U.S. and in the world," said Ge Herr, who is on the governance board of the Hmong International New Year Foundation.

Every year for the past decade, about 100,000 people pass through the gates, from all over the state, and country.

"We drove all the way from Sacramento to perform. It's pretty fun," said Julie Vang.

"It's just tradition, you feel like you're at home, it's family, all families here," said Kevin Lee.

General Vang Pao, the beloved leader of the Hmong community in the United States also attended the event at the fairgrounds.

A second celebration, just six miles away, at the Regional Sports Complex is going on at the same time.

Thousands of people also attended the opening day of festivities there.

"It has much more room, it's not that crowded, everything's the same-vendors, food, same thing," said Emily Yang.

Organizers of that celebration, United Hmong International, broke away from the larger organization reportedly because some were upset at how money from the event was being spent.

But organizers of the fairgrounds celebration say there should only be one new year's celebration.

"I don't know why this year there will be two, I don't understand. I would like to have only one for the Hmong people and the community," said Herr.

Many people we spoke with say they plan to attend both events during the week-long celebration. Both feature the usual traditions like singing, dancing, and the ball toss - a courtship game, different sports competitions, and of course, the traditional Hmong food.



Volume 11 of Hmong Studies Journal is Published

Friday, December 24, 2010

Corpus Christi, Tex. (December 20, 2010) – The Hmong Studies Internet Resource Center has published the online edition of Volume 11 of the Hmong Studies Journal. An internet-based journal at the Hmong Studies Journal is the only peer-reviewed academic publication devoted to the scholarly discussion of Hmong history, culture, people and other facets of the Hmong experience in the United States, Asia and around the world. There are 13 online issues in 11 volumes of Hmong Studies Journal published with a total of 91 scholarly articles since 1996.

Volume 11 of the journal includes articles from multiple academic disciplines including Anthropology, Art, Education, Gender Studies, Geography, Nursing and Public Health. This set of articles provides significant additions to both Hmong American and Hmong in Asia research.

Volume 11 Content Articles include:

• The Hmong Come to Southern Laos: Local Responses and the Creation of Racialized Boundaries. This article is presented by Ian G. Baird, and explores racialized boundaries to Hmong migration in Southern Laos.

Dr. Baird is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography at UW-Madison.

• The experiences of a Hmong American actor who starred in the film “Gran Torino”

• Parental Influences on Hmong University Students’ Success.

This article was produced by Andrew J. Supple, Shuntay Z. McCoy and Yudan Wang.

Shuntay McCoy is a Doctoral student in the Human Development & Family Studies Department at the UNC-Greensboro.

Dr. Supple is an Associate Professor in Human Development & Family Studies at the UNC-Greensboro.

Yudan Wang is a Doctoral student in the Human Development & Family Studies Department at the UNC-Greensboro.

• Access to Adequate Healthcare for Hmong Women: A Patient Navigation Program to Increase Pap-Test Screening. This research was produced by Penny Lo, Dao Moua Fang, May Ying Ly, Susan Stewart, Serge Lee and Moon S. Chen Jr.

The topics include Hmong American health including a study of a program to improve screening for breast cancer among Hmong American women and Hmong American women’s experiences with childbirth in the American medical system.

Dr. Susan Stewart is Associate Adjunct Professor, Division of General Internal Medicine, UC–San Francisco.

Dr. Chen Jr. is a Professor in the Division of Hematology & Oncology, Department of Internal Medicine at UC Davis. Dao Moua Fang, MSW is the Research Director of Hmong Women’s Heritage Association in Sacramento.

Dr. Lee is Research Professor of Social Work, Division of Social Work, California State University, Sacramento.

May Ying Ly, MSW is the former Executive Director of the Hmong Women’s Heritage Association in Sacramento.

Penny Lo, BS is a program coordinator at Hmong Women’s Heritage Association in Sacramento.

• Acculturation Processes of Hmong in Eastern Wisconsin by John Kha Lee, an Educator in the Sheboygan, Wis. Area School District, and Dr. Katherine Green, faculty lead for the Early Childhood Education Master’s Program at Capella University in the School of Education.

• A Hmong Birth and Authoritative Knowledge: A Case study of choice, control, and the reproductive consequences of refugee status in American childbirth by Faith Nibbs, a PhD Candidate at Southern Methodist University.

• Gran Torino’s Hmong Lead Bee Vang on Film, Race, and Masculinity: Conversations with Louisa Schein, Spring 2010. This article is an interview with Bee Vang, who as a high school student was selected as an actor to play the Hmong lead role of Thao in the Warner Bros. 2008 film, “Gran Torino.” Vang is now a college student at Brown University with a passion for social justice.

Dr. Louisa Schein is an Associate Professor who teaches Anthropology and Women’s and Gender Studies as well as Asian American Studies at Rutgers University in New Brunswick.

• A Commentary: Perspectives on Hmong Studies: Speech by Dr. Nicholas Tapp on Receiving the Eagle Award at the Third International Conference on Hmong Studies, Concordia University, Saint Paul, April 10, 2010.

Dr. Tapp is Professor Emeritus at Australian National University and Chair of the Department of Sociology at East China Normal University in Shanghai where he directs a program of studies in Anthropology.

• The Hmong and their Perceptions about Physical Disabilities: An Overview and Review of Selected Literature by Grace Hatmaker, Helda Pinzon-Perez, Xong Khang and Connie Cha, CEO of the Empowerment Institute in Fresno.

Grace Hatmaker, RN, MSN is Faculty at the California State University, Fresno, Department of Nursing. She is also a 4th year PhD nursing student at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Dr. Helda Pinzon-Perez is a Professor in the Departments of Public Health and Nursing at CSU-Fresno.

Xong Khang is a 4th year Public Health Student at CSU-Fresno.

• A Photo Essay: Patterns of Change: Transitions in Hmong Textile Language by Geraldine Craig, an Associate Professor, Head of the Department of Art at Kansas State University.

Other articles include:

• Temporal Trends in Hmong embroidery patterns in the United States, Laos and Thailand

• Key issues confronting researchers studying Hmong culture and Hmong populations around the world

Volume 11 and previous volumes of the Hmong Studies Journal may be viewed online at All of the Hmong Studies Journal articles published since 1996 listed by scholar name may be viewed online at


All of the Hmong Studies Journal articles published since 1996 listed by topic may be viewed at

Mark E. Pfeifer, PhD, Editor, Hmong Studies Journal and Hmong Studies Internet Resource Center, Bell Library, Texas A and M University, 6300 Ocean Drive, Unit 5702, Corpus Christi, TX 78412-5702. Call 361-825-3392 or email

The Hmong Studies Journal Volume 11 Editorial Board includes: Anne Frank, UC-Irvine; Dr. Paul Hillmer, Concordia University, St. Paul; Dr. Grit Gritoleit, University of Passau, Germany; Ly Chong Thong Jalao, UC-Santa Barbara; Eden Kaiser, UMN-Twin Cities; Dr. Jacqueline Nguyen, Saint Joseph’s University; Dr. Mark Pfeifer, Texas A and M University, Corpus Christi, Editor; Kari Smalkoski, UMN-Twin Cities; Dr. Nicholas Tapp, Australian National University; Yang S. Xiong, UCLA.

Hmong Cultural Center ( and the organization’s Hmong Resource Center Library in Saint Paul ( have been partners of the Hmong Studies Journal in producing and disseminating the journal’s print editions that are available at Hmong ABC Bookstore. The Hmong Studies Journal is also on Facebook and Twitter.



YouTube user - laoshu505000

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Shoutout!!!! He must be a linguistic

Check him out. He's trying to speak Hmoob! He is better than some Hmong Mekas!

Check him out here talking about Hmong and Chinese language

Hmong interrogatives, personal pronouns

Useful Hmong words

More Hmong

Hmong tones

Check out his blog!


Person of the Year runner-up: Mao Khang fights for change

Mao Khang has been fighting for equality for decades now. As a southeast Asian coordinator for The Women's Community in Wausau, she works directly with local victims of domestic violence. She's worked within the Hmong clan system as an advocate for women -- standing up to a patriarchal system that too often tended to sweep women's concerns aside.

It is hard work, and Khang has paid a real price personally for it, at times feeling alienated from her own culture.
Recently, though, there were signs that her efforts have actually begun to pay off.

In July 2009, it was Khang's efforts that brought Gen. Vang Pao, a revered cultural leader among Hmong in America, to Wausau. Vang Pao's speech at a conference called "Hmong in the Past, Present and Future" was the first time he had ever made public statements directly denouncing domestic violence and polygamy in the Hmong culture.

At that meeting, Vang Pao directed a committee of six Hmong men and six Hmong women be formed to explore ways to curb violence and sexual abuse within the culture.

And in March, for the first time, state Hmong clan leaders met in Green Bay, working to set the cultural tone for many Hmong families, to provide instruction on domestic violence laws and to train families on mediation techniques. Khang, a committee member and an organizer of the meeting, has been a guiding force behind every step of this process.

"This is a new thing happening in history, with Hmong women getting involved," committee member Paj Muas, 34, of Milwaukee told a Wausau Daily Herald reporter this spring. "We want to create some understanding, fair treatment."

In August, Khang received the Sunshine Peace Award, a recognition of her work to battle domestic violence. At a ceremony in Wilmington, N.C., she received the honor from the Sunshine Lady Foundation.

Domestic violence affects all cultures, all races and all socioeconomic groups. But the Hmong clan system's patriarchal traditions have made it especially hard for women to get help, because they're simply not viewed as equals by some within the culture.

That's changing. And Mao Khang is leading that change.



Flower H’mong in bloom

Aware of the tailoring and craft skills of the members of “Flower H’mong”, (Che Cu Nha commune, Mu Cang Chai district in the northwest mountainous province of Yen Bai) Craft Link, a Vietnamese NGO, is helping to preserve these traditional techniques and to present them beyond their village market.
Craft Link not only provides training for H’mong women in group management, design and product development, but also acts as a link to introduce their products to markets throughout Vietnam.

The clothes made by Flower Hmong are mainly distinguished by their use of deep indigo and brown. The decorative patterns are ornate, delicate and harmoniously combine batik motifs, intricate stripes and sophisticated appliqu├ęd dots.

The H’mong women of Che Cu Nha are highly skilled in batik art. They have also mastered the unique of dyeing different shades of indigo. The embroidery and batik motifs from this area have a special cultural significance.

Mu Cang Chai is mostly known as one of the most beautiful tourist destinations. The unique terraced fields have put Mu Cang Chai – one of the poorest districts of the country – on the map so to speak. But most tourists simply enjoy the views and continue on their journey.

Life here is hard. People live mainly on agriculture, with rice as their main food. Some also grow maize, soybeans, vegetables, cardamom and raise poultry and cattle.

The local H’mong community retains its unique cultural identity. Most people here still wear traditional costumes. Not only women and men, but also little children wear traditional clothes and hats which are made of hemp and richly embroidered. Nowadays, they use shiny black industrial cotton, but still keep the traditional decorative style and form.

As a not-for-profit organisation, Craft Link has cooperated with other organisations, such as CARE, the UN’s Drug Control Programme and Oxfam Hong Kong, to carry out poverty alleviation programmes throughout Vietnam. It also holds exhibitions and bazaars to display ethnic minorities’ crafts and culture.

Craft Link has also collaborated with Vietnamese institutions such as the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology to document and revive traditional crafts. The Craft Link Association of Craft Producers is comprised of more than 60 production groups, most of which belong to ethnic minorities.



Hmong Students in Sacramento learn of culture's Chinese roots

Hmong musician Li Yang, from Guizhou province in China, demonstrates last week how to use a leaf to create music, a centuries-old Chinese tradition, during an appearance at the Hmong charter school in Sacramento, which opened in August. Yang also played bamboo flutes to help teach the students about the Hmong culture's ties to ancient China.

The 264 students at Sacramento's Hmong charter school began grinning when Li Yang blew on a leaf and almost made it cry, the way his Chinese ancestors have done for centuries.

They rocked on the cold tile floor of the elementary school cafeteria, clapped, cheered and even popped up to dance along with Yang while he played the largest of three Hmong bamboo flutes, called "kengs," that sound like bagpipes.

The versatile Yang – who was flown in from Guizhou province by a local Hmong man – represents the growing connection between Hmong Americans and their 8 million cousins in China.

Yang – who also sang, plucked a tuning fork and played a small flute or "raj" – is one of the keepers of Hmong culture, which threatens to fade into American history as Hmong shamans and keng players slowly pass on.

"Hmong culture's beginning to disappear in the U.S., and we need to keep it alive as long as we can," said T.T. Vang, a Hmong radio host who translated Yang's words into English. "Even if many of us don't worship shamans anymore, we must preserve the the music, the language, the ceremonial clothing."

Yang was introduced by Vang's daughter, Miss Hmong International Ruby Mee Her, who showed students a slide show she'd made of Hmong villagers living in huts in China and Southeast Asia without beds, bathrooms, electricity or even shoes.

"They have to pay to go to school," she said. The Chinese Hmong are one of China's largest minority groups.

Taking the stage in a classic Hmong beanie, which is black with a red band, the lanky Yang blew a mournful Hmong love song on a fresh green leaf from Vang's yard.

"I'm outside, you're inside, can you hear me?" Vang translated.

Yav Pem Suab ("Preparing For The Future") Academy opened in August for kindergarten through fourth-grade students, about 80 percent Hmong. Most of the Hmong children were born in the United States and had a tough time following Yang's Chinese Hmong dialect.

"The traditional Hmong people in the mountains and valleys of China and Laos were using leaves to communicate because it echoes farther," said Principal Vince Xiong, who came to America at age 8. Each leaf player had a distinct sound he'd send to his wife "far, far away," Xiong said.

For an encore, the 44-year-old Yang played "My Darling Clementine," delighting the kids, who knew this one.

The scene was truly a fusion of cultures – Yang was flanked by two American flags, a Christmas tree and lights. He backed a few of his ancient ballads with a CD of techno music and strings.

After the show, Xiong gave Yang a T-shirt with the school's motto: "Dream, Believe, Inspire, Achieve!"

Xiong, who remembers growing up poor in Laos, declared, "We teach kids pride in their customs, clothing, language. Before we go further, we need to know our roots."

The Hmong, who had their own kingdom in southern China for centuries, were conquered by the Chinese emperors and forced to grow opium. The Hmong who did whatever they were told are known as "cooked Hmong"; those who resisted and fled are called "raw Hmong," Vang explained.

Some of the raw Hmong migrated to the mountains of Southeast Asia a few centuries ago.

"This is such a beautiful facility," Yang said of the school. "My village doesn't have a place like this. Every morning, you'd go to the side of the mountain and collect firewood, then walk an hour to a school, uphill and downhill, then come home to feed the cows and pigs."

Her, a community activist who was born in Laos, told the children, "They're still waiting for you to get an education and go back to help the country. I want to see every one of you graduate from high school and go on and get your college degree."



Dome disaster has far-reaching impact

MINNEAPOLIS -- More than a week after the Metrodome first deflated, the disaster is continuing to wreak havoc on plans of both teams and organizations in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

Besides the Vikings football team, the dome hosts up to 300 events annually. While crews continue to try and repair the dome's damaged roof, dozens of local organizations are scrambling to reschedule their events.

"My first reaction was, 'are they going to fix it in time for Monday Night Football?' And then my second reaction was, 'we have an event four days later, are we going to have it done in time for that," said Daniel Rodich with the Minneapolis Jewish Federation.

On Dec. 24, the Federation had planned to hold its annual Tzedakah Bowl football tournament at the dome. Since the mid-December snowstorm and resulting chaos, the organization has shifted to Plan "B" -- they'll be holding the event at the Plymouth Fieldhouse.

"It's not as exciting as playing at the Metrodome, but it's still a field where we can all get together and play football and raise some money for our events," Rodich said.

Other events haven't been as lucky.

Tong Pao Yang, President of the Hmong American New Year celebration in Minnesota, said his organization was forced to cancel the event on Jan. 1-2. Instead, they're hoping to find a new venue and hold the celebration in late January or early February.

The canceled events serve as further proof of the far-reaching impact of the dome disaster. On Wednesday, officials said they'd reached a new "safety" standard for workers inside the dome. This, after they successfully patched and melted snow off the dome roof and allowed it to flow into drains near the field.

Officials confirm five panels are now down at the dome: Three from the original event on Dec. 12, one from a few days later on the 15th and a third on Monday -- when someone intentionally shot a slug into the sagging roof to relieve built-up ice and snow.

Officials believe the fix could take at least a month. At this point, they continue to evaluate every section of the roof to confirm there are no additional weak sections. At the same time, material for new panels is being fabricated in Tijuana, Mexico.

"We want to be as transparent as possible, and we'll conduct this in a full and professional way," said Bill Lester with the Metro Sports Facilities Commission.



Nancy Jusky column: A salute to Chasong and the Hmong Mutual Assistance Association

Monday, December 20, 2010

We congratulate Chasong Yang, executive director of the Hmong Mutual Assistance Association in Sheboygan, for being honored as the Hmong Man of the Year during the Hmong New Year celebration held at Wisconsin State Fair Park.

As one of the Sheboygan & Plymouth Area United Way's affiliated agencies, we have worked with him and the Hmong Association for many of the 27 years he has headed the association and can attest to his contributions to our community. We are proud to call him a friend and champion for the Hmong community.

Yang, whose family was one of the first Hmong families to settle in Sheboygan in 1976, joined the Hmong Mutual Assistance Association — an organization his father helped start — in 1983. He is now the most-senior director of a Hmong association in Wisconsin and has served two terms as president of the Wisconsin United Coalition of Mutual Assistance Associations, the statewide umbrella organization of all Hmong associations.

Yang and his wife, Miva, a public health nurse, and their four children have been active in their church, schools and community.

The United Way-funded program with the Hmong Mutual Assistance Association is the Family Care Program headed by Mai Xiong. The program provides linguistically and culturally appropriate case management service to best meet the needs of limited English proficient (LEP) Hmong and refugee population in Sheboygan.

Thank you, Chasong and staff, for partnering with United Way to make a difference in the lives of those who live in Sheboygan County.

On another note, the United Way 2010 Campaign is working hard to make its $2.25 million goal so that we can continue our support of the Hmong Association program and 65 other agency programs.

At 80 percent of our goal, we are making a plea to the community to give to United Way before the end of the year.

Send your contribution to the United Way, 2020 Erie Ave., Sheboygan, WI 53081 or give online at www.

So many programs and so many people in need are depending on you.

Nancy Jusky is the marketing coordinator for the Sheboygan & Plymouth Area United Way. This is one of a series of columns about the services that United Way agencies provide in the community.



Big dueling events for Hmong New Year expected

Saturday, December 18, 2010

With just over a week to go before dueling Hmong New Year celebrations face off Dec. 26 in Fresno, organizers of both events say they expect crowds of 100,000.

That would essentially double the size of what has long been the biggest Hmong celebration in the Valley -- an event that draws visitors from around the world and creates an opportunity for far-flung families and friends to reunite.

But it's hard to tell whether the fight will result in two well-attended events six miles away from each other, or if one of the events will fizzle.

Organizers of the Hmong International New Year event -- which has called the Fresno Fairgrounds home for more than a decade -- insist it will be business as usual for them. Their rivals say it will be anything but.

"This year is a test," said Thomas Herr, deputy executive director of the Lao Family Community of Fresno, a nonprofit social-services agency that will march in the parade at the fairgrounds event.

Regardless of what happens, Herr said, he expects the community eventually to return to one event because of the cost and limited number of attendees.

The rival celebration in southwest Fresno was organized by community members upset about how money from the existing event was handled. They said the profits were misspent on trips abroad and not on the community, such as on a Hmong community center.

The organizers of Hmong International New Year deny that claim, saying they make plenty of donations to the community. They are going ahead with their celebration at the fairgrounds and say they don't expect the competing event to have any effect at all.

About 120,000 people attended the event last year, and organizers expect the same number this year.

Gen. Vang Pao, a leader in the Hmong community who fought communists in Southeast Asia, is scheduled to attend the opening ceremonies at the fairgrounds.

Organizers of the second event invited him in the second week of December, but haven't heard back yet.

Even so, organizers of the rival event say they are gearing up for about 100,000 visitors at the Fresno Regional Sports Complex near Jensen and West avenues, according to Nelson Vang, executive director of the 18 Clan Council.

That group has representatives from each of the 18 Hmong family clans and is planning the event with United Hmong International.

Along with offering similar crowd predictions, the two events also claim to have signed up matching numbers of vendors.

The fairgrounds event has signed up 440 vendors -- more than last year, said Charlie Vang, executive director of the Hmong International New Year Foundation Inc.

He is not related to Nelson Vang, who says his event has 400 vendors scheduled to work -- including vendors who once worked at the fairgrounds event.

On the surface, the two events seem similar. The admission price of both celebrations is the same: $3, with seniors and young children getting in free. Each will have a parade and a Miss Hmong competition.

And both feature sports. The fairgrounds event will use Mosqueda Park across the street for soccer, volleyball and kator, a sport similar to volleyball in which the ball is kicked across a net.

But the 110-acre sports complex has more room for kator, flag football, soccer, volleyball and top spin, a sport in which tops are flung across a field with poles. A fishing tournament will be held at the complex's lake.

Nelson Vang said recent Hmong radio and TV shows asked people to call in and say which event they were going to attend. The majority said they planned to attend the event at the sports complex, he said.

Nelson Vang said he expects many younger people to attend his event.

"They want to see change," he said.

That change comes not so much in the event itself, but from how the profits are to be spent, he said.

"We're going to tell people up front how much we make and how we spent," he said.

Money will be spent on college scholarships and a Hmong cultural center envisioned as a meeting place and a way to preserve Hmong history, he said.

Nelson Vang said no trips will be taken abroad to other New Year celebrations. The Hmong International New Year Foundation, in contrast, said previously it represents the American Hmong community at Thai, Laotian and Chinese New Year celebrations.

The two events have caused confusion among some within the community, said Charles Torr, a linguist and freelance translator who moved to Fresno 18 months ago.

"People are saying, 'Well, who makes sense here? Which direction should we follow?' " he said.

"Some people are not making their mind clear yet in which way we should support."

Herr, of the Lao Family Community, said having two events is healthy because people can now assess how the celebrations are handled and choose one.

Herr's organization has collaborated with the fairgrounds' New Year celebration in past years. It is not involved in planning this year but will march in that celebration's parade.

But Herr said he would prefer to have the Hmong community unified around one event.

Wangyee Vang, president of the Fresno Lao Veterans of America Institute, agreed.

"Two is too much in the same city," he said. "If they could agree and get together and form only one New Year, it might be better."



Hmong: Traditional New Year’s Celebration to Preserve Native Culture

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Spokane Hmong Association, like other similar groups in the United States, has celebrated the Hmong New Year’s Day, which is an opportunity for these communities to invigorate and foster their traditions as well as remembering the persecutions faced in Laos.

Though many residents are counting the days until Christmas, one group has already celebrated the new year. On December 4 [2010], the Spokane Hmong Association hosted a traditional new year party featuring colorful garb and plentiful food.

Unlike the Western new year, the Hmong people have no set calendar date for the celebration. Vang Xiong, of the Spokane Hmong Association, said because their ancestors were farmers, the festivities were usually held after the crops had been harvested; the date varied from region to region.

But two things remain unchanged. “It’s a time for young people to get to know each other in public forum,” Xiong said.

And there is always lots of food. Xiong smiled and said, “We are a traditionally generous people.”

Indeed, a smorgasbord of goodies was spread out buffet-style in the back of the gym at the East Central Community Center. The traditional Hmong rice cakes disappeared quickly as young and old gobbled up the purple, pink, white and gold delectables.

Several hundred people packed the room for the feast. Guests traveled from Missoula and Seattle to celebrate with their Spokane friends and family. The vibrant colors of richly embroidered Hmong clothing glittered under the lights and the tinkling of coins echoed. The silver coins, stitched onto vests, hats and skirts, represent prosperity.

The evening began with the traditional ball-toss game, a fun way for single folks to get to know each other. Boys form a row facing the girls and balls are tossed back and forth between them. If a girl is not interested in a boy, she simply doesn’t catch the ball he throws her way. “Many young people meet their future spouses at new year,” said Xiong.

Dignitaries from the Hmong community gave welcoming speeches in the Hmong dialect while teens from the youth association served as translators. As an elder offered the traditional new year blessing, small children scampered and chased tennis balls.

City Council President Joe Shogan also addressed the crowd. Shogan, a Vietnam War veteran, has close ties to the Hmong community. “I will never forget what you did for our armed forces,” he said.

Shogan was referring to the “Secret War” waged in Laos. During the Vietnam War, the Hmong were secretly recruited by the CIA to fight against communism. They paid a heavy price for assisting the United States.

Mai Yang, 40, vice president of the Spokane Hmong Association, finds irony in the fact that often Hmong people are confused with Vietnamese. She’s heard taunts like “go home to where you came from.”

Yang said, “We can’t. We helped the U.S. government. We are not welcome. People don’t know that there is a lot of persecution in Laos.”

Yang’s family, like many Hmong, found refuge in the United States. After five years in a refugee camp in Thailand, Yang’s family arrived in Seattle when she was 9. She eventually moved to Spokane with her father and sister.

When the speeches concluded, the feasting began. After dinner, guests were treated to a fashion show featuring ornate Hmong costumes topped with elaborate turbans or hats.

For Yang, the celebration is a vital way to honor Hmong heritage while providing a format to connect the older generation with the young. “We need to keep our culture and traditions alive for our kids,” she said.



Proposal To Allow Hmong Vets In National Cemeteries

Monday, December 13, 2010

Washington, DC(WSAU) Several Wisconsin Congress members are getting behind a proposal to allow Hmong veterans to be buried in national cemeteries. Many Hmong soldiers who ran covert operations to help US troops during the Viet Nam war moved to the US. Members of the Wisconsin Congressional delegation think it's time to recognize these veterans for their service. Congressman Ron Kind is one of the co-authors of the bill that would allow Hmong vets to be buried along side fellow US soldiers. Tammy Baldwin, Steve Kagen and Tom Petri are co-sponsoring the bill. Wisconsin has the third largest population of Hmong in the United States. An estimated 7,000 Hmong who live in the US are believed to have served in the Viet Nam war.



Congressional plan would allow Hmong soldiers to be buried in national cemeteries

Several Wisconsin Congress members are getting behind a proposal to allow Hmong veterans to be buried in national cemeteries.

Many Hmong soldiers who ran covert operations to help U.S. troops during the Vietnam conflict moved to the U.S. after the war.

Several Wisconsin Congress members say the time is right to recognize these veterans for their service.

Western Wisconsin Congressman Ron Kind is one of the co-sponsors of the bill that would allow Hmong vets to be buried in national cemeteries alongside fellow U.S. soldiers.

“They fought beside our soldiers, they cleared landing pads for our planes, gathered intelligence. They did everything they could to rescue downed American pilots.”

Thai Vue of La Crosse served in the Vietnam War. He says the nearly 200 war vets he knows would like some sort of recognition for their service.

“That hasn’t happened to the degree we’d like to see.”

Wisconsin Democratic Congress members Tammy Baldwin, Steve Kagen, and Republican Tom Petri are also co-sponsoring the bill.

Wisconsin has the third largest population of Hmong in the U.S. An estimated 7,000 Hmong who live in the U.S. are believed to have served in the Vietnam War.



OVERLOOKED BY OSCAR: (#22) "Gran Torino"

Friday, December 10, 2010

Last year, the number of movies nominated for the Oscar for Best Picture doubled, from five to 10. It got me thinking about what films from the past decade would have, or should have, been nominated for best picture if 10 films were nominated each year. Thus, I'm writing a month-long countdown of these great films that were "Overlooked By Oscar."

#22: "Gran Torino" (2008)

"Gran Torino" is the story of Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood), a Korean War veteran who is among the last white people living in his inner city neighborhood. His neighbors all around him are suddenly Hmong natives, and Kowalski is cautious and leery of his new neighbors. His wife has recently died, and Walt is gloomy, jaded, and edgy.

I loved this movie, even more than most critics nationwide. Eastwood's Walt Kowalski is vile in his racist humor, but it is hard NOT to laugh at some of the ridiculous, over-the-top remarks that he says. So, there is a lot of good laughs throughout this film.

This is no comedy, though. The neighbor boy, Thao, tries to steal Walt's prized Gran Torino as a gang initiation, but of course, the theft is halted. Soon, Thao is required to work for Walt to pay off the debt (his sins) for the attempted theft. Walt slowly learns some of the Hmong customs, and it is a great learning tool for movie-goers nationwide who are unfamiliar with the Hmong people and their traditions.

Soon, Walt is seen as the protector of the neighborhood, a title he doesn't want. By the end of the film, he is willing to make a major sacrifice to keep Thao and his sister, Sue, safe from the Hmong gangs that have infiltrated the neighborhood.

The lively Sue is one of the best characters here. Sue is a teenager, perhaps 17 or 18, and she has fun needling Walt for not knowing or understanding the Hmong culture. She stands up for herself and her family. When she is hurt late in the movie, your heart cannot help but break when you see her injured body.

This is a wonderful story. It's a story about overcoming xenophobia and racism. It's a story about redemption and forgiveness and loss of faith. Yet, it's funny and witty, while also dark and troubling. But in the end, I found a sense of hope and optimism I didn't expect. This movie is not for children; the racist language is somehow cute, or passable, coming from a grumpy old man, but would be downright offensive coming from the mouths of youth today.

"Gran Torino" was shot on a mere $33 million budget, and it earned a remarkable $270 million worldwide. Critics at gave it a solid 80 percent approval rating. About 68 percent of viewers gave it an ‘A' grade, while another 25 percent gave it a ‘B' grade, at

Sadly, while the film was named among the 10 best films of the year by the American Film Institute, it was snubbed entirely by the Oscars.

Vetter rating: A



Eliminate Hate

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The fairly politically correct and liberal environment that comes naturally with living on or around campus definitely has it's benefits, but there also are negative implications as well. One issue with living in the this environment is that students are isolated to real problems impacting the rest of the La Crosse community. Hate crimes are one of these problems. As we carry on day to day in our own little bubbles, hate crimes are being committed in the mean time in the La Crosse community. They can have their motives stemming from race, sexual orientation, religious views, or the one I wish to address, immigrant status. The Hmong Mutual Assistance Association here in La Crosse has an average of two hate crimes reported a week solely against the Hmong immigrant population. The reasons for many of these hate crimes come from a lack of education about immigrants and their economic and cultural impact. As students, I believe it is our duty to educate ourselves so we do not have the same perceived and untrue ideas about immigrants and can thus advocate for the legal immigrants whom deserve justice.