We got on a bus, and had no idea where we were going.: Becoming Minnesotan

Bo Thao, 2000.
  • Name - Bo Thao
  • Age at interview - 26
  • Gender - Female
  • Generation - First Generation American / Refugee
  • Date of Interview - 01.17.2000
  • Travelling by bus from a refugee camp, Thailand.  Photo courtesy MayKao Hang.
    Nao Tou Yang, upon deplaning in St. Paul, Minnesota.

    The Journey

    Essential Question

    Coming to America: What did coming to America symbolize for this person?

    The Journey: How did this person get to the U.S.?

    Background Information

    When the Americans withdrew from Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, the Hmong people were in great danger.  During the war the Hmong had fought with the Americans, so the Vietnamese Communists and Communist Pathet Lao were sure to go after them as punishment.  Many Hmong fled to Thailand where they lived in refugee camps.  Knowing that they could not go back to their homeland, a large number of them sought refugee visas to come to the U.S.  There have been four major waves of Hmong resettlement in the U.S. between 1975 and today.  If selected, each family would be placed in a specific place in the U.S. where they had a sponsor to accept them and help them find jobs, housing, and other services to get settled. 

    To learn more about Hmong history and culture, visit our Hmong Community page.

    • Chapter 1

    Download Bo Thao 1
    0:39 Minutes | 0.63Mb


    Note: Original interview was conducted in Hmong.  Excerpt is read in English by MayKao Hang.

    Narrator: Bo Thao (BT)

    BT:  My memory of coming to the U.S. is limited. All I remember is getting on the bus - the big bus. I remember seeing my grandma. The whole memory is similar to all the videos that you see of Hmong people coming to America. That’s exactly what it was like, because we got on the bus, and had no idea where we were going. I see my grandparents crying, and I questioned myself, “Why are they crying?” Our family gets on the bus. We were so happy, because we’ve never been on a bus before, but my parents and grandparents are crying. The whole trip I just remember throwing up on the airplane. [Laughs] That’s pretty much what’s in my memory.


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access]. http://www.mnhs.org/immigration
    nid: 477