Hmong Heritage Month kickoff event aims to preserve culture

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Wausau West High School senior Victor Chang, right, and Wausau East High School senior Vang Lee act out a scene from a traditional Hmong play Saturday at the Marathon County Public Library in Wausau during the kickoff event for Hmong Heritage Month. / (Dan Young/Wausau Daily Herald)

Members of Wausau's Hmong community said they hope lessons at home and cultural celebrations such as one held Saturday will help younger generations remember and preserve their culture.

About 50 people celebrated the kickoff of Hmong Heritage Month on Saturday at the Marathon County Public Library in Wausau with music, dance and food. The event featured the Hmong tapestry youth dance group performing to modern and traditional Hmong songs, and speeches by community leaders.

 This year's theme, "We are one," reflects the Hmong community's efforts to share its culture with younger generations and with non-Hmong residents. Events later this month include a resource fair, family fitness day, a book reading and a banquet.

 "We live here in America and our kids are forgetting who the Hmong people are," Wausau Area Hmong Mutual Association Board President Chawa Xiong said. "It is important for us to celebrate the Hmong heritage and teach our kids and the community."

Coincidentally, several Hmong youths joined a protest earlier Saturday that was critical of Xiong and his leadership.

Mee Yang, 56, of Wausau, takes her family's culture seriously. Yang's daughter is interested in fashion design and the two often sew clothing that infuses modern fashion with traditional colors and style of the Hmong culture.

 "The clothing is where my aunt (Yang) and her daughter remember their culture," said Noah Her, Heritage Month organizer, who translated for Yang.

Retired teachers Alvie, 60, and Don Lutz, 61, both of the town of Cassel, said they attended because they taught many Hmong students and respect their culture. They also have visited China and Hong Kong and have four adopted Korean nieces and nephews.

 "We just try to get more information on other cultures because there is always something new to learn," Don Lutz said.

 Marathon County Administrator Brad Karger spoke at the event and told the audience that the vast majority of families who settled in the county immigrated from other countries at some point in the last 160 years.

 "Too many of us don't know our own heritage," Karger said.


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