Regardless of if you were boys or girls, education is very important.: Becoming Minnesotan

Kim Yang, c. 2000.
  • Name - Kim Yang
  • Age at interview - 31
  • Gender - Female
  • Generation - First Generation American / Refugee
  • Date of Interview - 12.01.1999
  • Yang family, Laos, c.1970.  Photo courtesy Naly Yang.
    Yang family, Laos, 1970s.  Photo courtesy MayKao Hang.

    Education, Family, Gender Roles, Hmong

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    Essential Question

    Life in the Old Country: What makes a country a person’s homeland?

    Traditions & Values: What makes up “culture”?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    The Hmong lived mostly in rural areas in Laos so education was not widely available. If it was available, it was often the boys who  were sent to school because the girls were needed to help at home.  This was especially true  after Hmong men began being recruited to fight with the American soldiers in the “Secret War” in Laos. 

    If Hmong students did go to school, it was usually to attend Laotian schools where they would learn in that country’s primary language.  Because  Laos was a French colony at one time, French was also often taught.

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

    • Chapter 1

    Download Kim Yang 1
    2:1 Minutes | 1.94Mb


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

    Narrator: Kim Yang (KY)

    Interviewer: Mai Neng Moua (MNM)

    MNM:  Did you go to school when you were young?

    KY:  When I was six years old, I went to school for about three months. That is it because I was the oldest and my mom and dad needed help with baby-sitting, doing house chores, and cooking, so I had to help them out. At that time, my dad got drafted to join the army so he went and left my mom with all of us. So my mother told me to come home to help baby-sit and cook for my brother and sisters. I needed to help out so that my mother could go to work or farm so that we could have food to eat.

    So I did not have chance to attend school at all. I went to school for about two or three months and that was it. When we arrived in Thailand, I went to school for about six months, but like I said there was no one to help out my mom and dad. So I got out to help my mom and dad, so I did not have any school after that.

    MNM:  When you were in Laos and you went to school when you were six years old, what school was that?

    KY:  It’s the school that is located right in Long Cheng, Laos. It’s the one near the market that was burned.

    MNM:  Who was being taught, Hmong or Laos?

    KY:  There was half Hmong and half Laos.

    MNM:  What about your teacher, was he or she Hmong or Laos?

    KY:  My teacher was Hmong.

    MNM:  Were you studying the Hmong language, the Hmong alphabet, or the Laotian’s language?

    KY:  Actually we studied only the Laotian Language and not the Hmong language.

    MNM:  Did you have to pay to go to that school?

    KY:  Yes, we did. We made a monthly payment to the teacher.

    MNM:  Since like I heard somewhere that they didn't let girls attend school, how come you could go to school?

    KY:  The reason I went to school was not because we were the son and daughter of a leader, but because my dad was a very close soldier to General Vang Pao. Because my dad was the most educated in my family and he also believed that regardless of if you were boys or girls, education is very important. You needed to learn so that you will know what to do regardless of where you are at. That was the belief of my dad and that is why my dad asked me to go to school.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Verb:  To conscript a person, force a person to serve in the military.  (drafts, drafting, drafted)

    General Vang Pao

    A former Major General in the Royal Lao Army. He is an ethnic Hmong and a leader of the Hmong American community in the United States


    Adjective:  Of, from, or pertaining to Laos, the Laotian people or the Laotian language.

    Noun:  1. A person from Laos or of Lao descent.  2. The language of Laos.


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access].
    nid: 463