I hope our people will keep our culture and customs alive.: Becoming Minnesotan

Male silhouette.
  • Name - Nhia Yer Yang
  • Age at interview - 60
  • Gender - Male
  • Generation - First Generation American / Refugee
  • Date of Interview - 11.15.1991
  • Hmong girls dance performance, Arlington High School, St. Paul.
    Hmong New Year, St. Paul, 1992.  Photo courtesy MayKao Hang.

    We Are Here

    Hmong, Identity, Ties to Homeland

    Essential Question

    We Are Here: What does it mean to this immigrant group to be here in America?

    Cultural Preservation: How does a person weave his or her traditional culture into a new American identity?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    The Hmong people began immigrating into the U.S. as refugees in 1976, and more continue to arrive each year to join family members currently living here.  The Hmong were traditionally subsistence farmers in the mountainous areas of Laos.  The Hmong in Laos typically had large families, and the children spent most of their time helping the family with farming and household tasks.  When they immigrated into the U.S. most Hmong settled in urban areas, or migrated there and were no longer farming to support their families.  Children have much more time away from their parents and are sometimes influenced more by their American peers and culture around them than by their parents at home.  This can be a source of conflict between the older generations of Hmong who are trying to maintain their traditions and the younger Hmong family members who see themselves as having more of a connection to the U.S.

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

    • Chapter 1
    • Chapter 2

    Download Nhia Yer Yang 5
    0:47 Minutes | 0.75Mb


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

    Narrator: Nhia Yer Yang (NY)

    NY:  I would like to say for the next generation of my people, that hopefully in the future when their children grow up, they will learn more about their people. Where they come from and who they are. Do not become like American people. Do not become so comfortable and adapt their form in the States. They're American, but they have to remember where their ancestors came from. Learn to respect your parents more.

    Hopefully, we will have a lot of help and more and more of our people become political and help our own, so we don't get so lost in this country. I hope this will become like a story and our people will understand and keep our culture and customs alive. I am thankful the American people are helping by doing this to keep it alive.

    See Chapter 2 for original Hmong interview.

    Download Nhia Yer Yang 5 (Hmong)
    3:53 Minutes | 3.72Mb


    Excerpt of original interview in Hmong language.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Verb:  To conform and make suitable.  (adapts, adapting, adapted)


    Noun:  Ones from whom a person is descended, whether on the father's or mother's side, at any distance of time; progenitors; fore fathers.


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


    Noun:  1. The habitual practices of doing or living; traditions.  2. The government department or agency that is authorised to collect the taxes imposed on imported goods.


    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.


    Adverb:  Concerning or related to politics, the art and process of governing.


    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: 485