#2 -- Two brothers were working in the field. An old man appeared and told the brothers that a great flood was going to come. Because the older brother treated the old man unkindly, he instructed the older brother to build a metal drum while telling the younger one to build a wooden drum. When the flood came the younger brother and his sister got into the wooden drum. The older brother in the metal drum was lost in the flood, but the wooden drum floated for days until the earth dried. Because the brother and sister were the last two humans on earth they agreed to marry each other. Out of incest they gave birth to a big pumpkin. The brother cut the pumpkin into pieces and each piece turned into a human being. These beings became all the clans of the Hmong family.
#3 -- Five thousand years ago the Hmong people lived in the basin of the Yellow River where the present day Beijing is. The Han Chinese also had a kingdom nearby. In their expansion the Han Chinese took over Hmong lands. In defense the Hmong waged war. As the first Hmong King, Chi You led the Hmong against the advancing Chinese. The Hmong lost the war. Many fled the area. This started the Hmong migration that eventually ended up in America.
#4 -- One thousand years later the Hmong people who had migrated to the south built another kingdom. The kingdom was called “San Miao” (Peb Hmoob). In Chinese it means “Three Hmong.” In Hmong it means “Us Hmong.” The Chinese expansion eventually caught up to the Hmong Kingdom. There we fought another great war. We lost again. The migration continued further south, close to the borders of Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Burma.
#5 -- The Hmong people who migrated to the north eventually crossed the ocean and ended up in Japan. During the Qin dynasty the Emperor sent 3000 people to Japan to search for the fountain of youth. On the ships many of the servants were Hmong. The people never found the fountain of youth. Fearing for their lives they sailed towards Japan. Today many Japanese visit Hmong villages with claims that their ancestors came from those areas. Some Japanese have claimed to be Hmong to the Hmong in China.
#6 -- After defeating the Hmong armies, the Chinese divided the Hmong into groups, assigning them different colors to wear. They hoped that this would ensure that they would never unite again. They believed that it would be easier to defeat the Hmong if they were divided. The Chinese also divided the Hmong into clans to further create division.
#7 -- To prevent the Hmong from ever retaking their land, the Emperor built a smaller version of the Great Wall. The “Hmong Wall” was about a hundred miles long with guard towers to watch over the Hmong.
#8 -- The Hmong fought the Chinese with cross bows and used the mountainous terrain to their advantage. They lured whole units into gorges and then rolled rocks onto the unsuspecting Chinese. The Hmong fighters were feared throughout China.
#9 -- After losing a major battle, a Chinese general sought refuge in the Hmong Villages. In return for their kindness, he showed the Hmong villages. In return for their kindness, he showed the Hmong how to make guns. Within a few years, the Emperor collected over 20,000 guns from the Hmong at the end of a major rebellion. There’s a Hmong saying in China: “Fight a small war every 30 years and fight a big was every 60 years.”
#10 -- In the mid 1800’s the Chinese empire lost the Opium War to the British. To pay the British, they taxed the poor heavily, especially the Hmong. Many families had to dig up valuables that they had buried with the dead to pay the heavy tax. Out of desperation we rebelled. A long war broke out. We took back many lands, but in the end we lost again.
#11 -- The Hmong once again had to leave their homes. This time many of us left China for good. We found untamed and unoccupied land in Southeast Asia (Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, and Burma).
#12 -- There were already people in the low lands. The only places left were the mountaintops. This new land gave up the freedom to live freely. Life on the top of the world was difficult. To survive we had to resort to slash and burn farming methods. Huge water works constructed out of bamboo brought in fresh water.
#13 -- In the mountains of Laos the untamed jungles were infested with man-eating tigers. The Hmong had to trap and kill many tigers before it was safe to live there. Fields had to be cleared for housing and farming.
#14 -- Laos was already under the control of the French. The French needed money to run their colony. Opium was a great cash crop for the French. Since the Hmong lived on land that was good for cultivating opium, they were encouraged to grow as much opium as possible. When collecting taxes the French preferred opium to cash.
#15 -- The French treated the Hmong poorly and collected heavy taxes, while giving local control to the Laotians. Due to this harsh and unfair treatment, the Hmong rebelled. The French, in their arrogance, couldn’t understand why the Hmong rebelled. They called rebellion “The Mad Man’s War.”
#16 -- To fight the well-equipped French army, the Hmong made homemade cannons out of wood. They lured the French soldiers into the middle of an empty village using a shaman. Once in position, the Hmong fired the homemade cannons killing many French soldiers.
#17 -- The Hmong also used methods that they had mastered while fighting in China. They would lure the enemy into gorges and then roll rocks down the mountain, burying many French alive.
#18 -- The Hmong lost the rebellion but not the cause. After the war the French appointed Hmong officials to handle local affairs. Hmong were given land to live on and farm in the low lands.
#19 -- After the harvest season each village would set a date for the New Year celebrations. For three days people did nothing but feast and participate in the New Year celebrations. This was the time for young people to meet and hopefully find a mate.
#20 -- During the New Year celebrations one of the activity was to have bulls fight. All the villagers would come out to see the brutal event. If a bull died, the villagers would get a free feast.
#21 -- In fear of a communist takeover of the world, America started sending “advisers” to Southeast Asia to prevent the “domino effect.” The Hmong were recruited to become America’s foot soldiers in Laos in their fight against communism.
#23 -- Before the war the majority of the Hmong were just simple farmers. Many had never seen a vehicle before. During the war, the Hmong quickly learned to use modern technology. Many excelled at it. One of the best fighter pilots in the world was Lee Lue, the fearless Hmong pilot who logged over 500 missions before he was shot down. As a pilot he flew two to three missions per day. Most American pilots went home after logging 100 sorties.
#24 -- When America left Saigon, they packed up and left Laos too. The Hmong were left to fend for themselves. On May 14, 1975 the last C46 took the last of the Hmong military officers to Thailand. This marked the final end of the “Secret War”.
#25 -- The people fearing for their lives also left Long Cheng, the CIA secret base. They headed toward Vientiane the capital city. Before reaching Vientiane they have to cross a river. At the river a local officer, also a Hmong took soldiers to the bridge where the people were crossing. There he urged the Hmong people to return to their homes. The people refused and the soldiers opened fire, killing many.
#27 -- To speed up the genocide, the communists sprayed chemicals on villages. People, animals and crops were wiped out. We called this chemical “Yellow Rain.”
#28 -- With the communists committing genocide against the Hmong, the people left Laos. Usually whole villages would leave together, with as many as 5000. Only half would ever make it across to Thailand.
#29 -- The Hmong people were no longer safe in Laos, now that the communists took over. Trying to elude the communist soldiers many people spent anywhere from several months in the jungle to a year before ever reaching the Mekong River. Food would run out, so people had to eat whatever they could find. People ate roots, barks, and leaves. Many people died from starvation.
#30 -- As a last resort the former Hmong CIA army picked up their arms and banded together to defend themselves on Phu Bia Mountain. There the communist army slaughtered the Hmong.
#31 -- As a last resort the former Hmong CIA army picked up their arms and banded together to defend themselves on Phu Bia Mountain. There the communist army slaughtered the Hmong.
#32 -- Reaching the Mekong River, the boarder between Laos and Thailand, was very difficult. After coming close many never reached the river. Those that had made it across tell stories of seeing babies trying to nurse on rotting corpses not knowing that their mother is already dead.
#33 -- To cross the river people blew up plastic bags or made bamboo rafts. Those that had money hired Thai boaters to take them across. After already receiving the payments, the boaters dump the boats in the middle of the river killing everyone while he swam to shore. Once across some of the people were forced by the Thai police to turn back to Laos.
#34 -- If you made it across the river, Thai officials take you to a refugee camp to register. Although the refugee camps are a lot better, Thai police often abuse the refugees' human rights.
#36 -- Water was in short supply so it was a welcoming sight when it rains. Instead of running for shelter the kids take out the soap and take a cool rain shower. While many of the kids were clueless to the hopelessness situation of the refugee camps, many of the adults simply gave up hope of a normal life. Funerals were a daily event. Being sick was the rule.
#38 -- AMERICA! The land of opportunities and freedom. To the new arrivals it was the land of uncertainty, confusion and fear. Many ended up in the “projects” where the government housed the poor. Life there was hard. Many of the criminals preyed on the scared refugees. What a rude awakening for us.
#39 -- Finding jobs for unskilled refugees with no English was impossible. Almost all the refugees depended on federal support to survive.
#40 -- Prior to America most of the children have never been in a school. Fitting in was impossible. The Hmong children stood out like a sore thumb. We were poor, we looked different and we did not speak English. We were easy targets for the school bullies. Sometimes we fight back.
#42 -- The Boy Scouts of America was a natural fit for the Hmong boys. We get to learn about America in a safe environment. We also get to explore the woods like our parents used to do back in Laos.
#43 -- To keep the culture alive we have to adapt. Instead of celebrating the New Year outdoor and after the harvest season, we celebrate it during American holidays or on weekends because it was the only time we can get off from work.
#44 -- The New Year not only changed from outdoor to indoor, but many of the activities were added while others disappeared. The ceremonies and bull fights have been replaced by beauty pageants and dance contests.
#46 -- Not only the culture changed, the children changed. We were once forced by the Chinese to divide into groups. Now the Hmong children willingly divide each other into groups, wearing different colors, and killing each other.
#47 -- Not only the children are changing, many of the adults also are changing. Under pressure and anxiety of becoming more American, many tragedies erupted. Older Hmong start committing suicides out of loneliness. The middle age Hmong kill their whole family before taking their own lives.
#48 -- While there are negative effects there are also positive ones. The young are grasping and learning American ideas fast. Many are using their skills and knowledge to help and speak for our community.
#50 -- 5000 years ago the Hmong lived on the basin of the Yellow River. Today the trail of the Hmong migration goes through China, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Burma, South America, France, Australia, Canada and America. Where the trail leads to, no one knows.