We got to come and live in this great country.: 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
  • Sua Vu Yang and Yer Yang in traditional dress, St. Paul (?), 1980s.
    Hmong child eating at table, St. Paul, 1981-1982. Photographer: Michael Kieger.

    Citizenship, Freedom, Hmong, Identity

    Essential Question

    Becoming Americans: What does it mean to be an American?

    Opportunities in America: What kind of opportunities does this person see in America that he/she did not have in the homeland?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    Laos faced a lot of political turmoil in the 20th Century.  Once the French were thrown out, there was a period of civil war and unrest during which several groups fought to gain control of the government.  A very repressive Communist government ruled from 1975 into the mid-1990s.  Over the past 15 years, the Lao government has relaxed its harsh practices significantly, and tens of thousands of Hmong refugees living in Thailand have voluntarily returned to Laos.  However, many more (over 200,000) have now settled in other parts of the world where there are better opportunities for education and jobs.   

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

    • Chapter 1

    Download Kim Yang 11
    2:9 Minutes | 2.07Mb


    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:  If someone asks you about where your home is or where is your home country, what is your response?

    KY:  For me…because I have lived in this country longer than I lived in Laos, I think this country is my home.

    MNM:  In your opinion, what is your relationship toward Laos?

    KY:  I think that Laos is a very special country. But for me it seems like Laos is only a country that I had seen, lived, and knew for a very short period of time. It is not a stable country so it is not my home country. I am so happy that we were born in the right place and the right time because we got to come and live in this great country. Our parents had brought us to this great county so that we can get our education, gain more knowledge, have the houses like other people to live, and get the good jobs. For those who were still carrying our old tradition and don’t know much about other nationalities and their cultures, now they have the opportunities to learn other nationalities and their cultures. It is a good thing to know other people and their cultures such as other Americans and their religions. This is a great country that gave us good opportunities because regardless of if you were a woman or man, you have the same rights as other people in this country.

    MNM:  You had answered me that this country is your home country, but other Hmong people especially the older folks would think that Laos is their home country. What do you think about that?

    KY:  I think that is okay for them to think like that because they had to live in Laos a major part of their lives, so that is why they feel like Laos is their home country. There was freedom back in Laos too, but when it comes to opportunity such as how to advance yourself in terms of business so that you could get wealthy, that was not there. Because most of the older folks back then were farmers so they got to do what they wanted, so it was a good thing for them because they had the freedom to do what they wanted. But for the younger generation, we say that this is our home country and that is okay because we have lived here the majority of our lives.

    MNM:  Are you a U.S. citizen?

    KY:  Right now, I am not because I haven’t made the decision yet. But I am a permanent resident.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Noun:  1. A person that is a legally recognized as a member of a state or country, with associated rights and obligations.  2. A person that is a legally recognized resident of a city or town.  3. A resident of any particular place to which the subject feels to belong.


    Noun:  The arts, customs, and habits that characterize a particular society or nation.


    Noun:  1. A period of around thirty years, the average amount of time before a child takes the place of its parents.  2. A group of people who are of approximately the same age.


    Noun:  Peoples sharing a common origin, culture and/or language, and possibly constituting a nation-state.


    Noun:  A chance for advancement, progress, or profit.


    Noun:  A legal or moral entitlement.


    Noun:  A custom that is practiced within a group.


    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
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