I was a soldier and a mayor until 1960 when the American people came.: 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 clan village, Laos.  Photo courtesy MayKao Hang.
    Yong Vang Yang and son, Seng Yang, with bull, standing in their village, Laos.

    Economics, Hmong, War

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    Essential Question

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

    Politics & Government: How are other systems of government different than the U.S. government?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    The Hmong have lived throughout southeast Asia for several thousand years.  From the late 1800s until 1954 Laos was controlled as part of a French colony called French Indochina. During this time, a system of government was established that included regional governors and mayors who would be in charge of local communities.  This system of government continued in some form even after the French left Indochina.

    During the 1940s a Communist leader rose to power in Vietnam and was successful in removing the French from Indochina and establishing control of the northern half of Vietnam.  Soon the Vietnamese Communists were trying to expand their control into neighboring countries of South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. 

    The Americans went to war against the Vietnamese Communists, and also recruited Hmong and Laotian soldiers to fight against the Communists in the “Secret War” in Laos.

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

    • Chapter 1
    • Chapter 2

    Download Nhia Yer Yang 4
    1:48 Minutes | 1.73Mb


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

    Narrator: Nhia Yer Yang (NY)

    NY:  When I was still young with my parents, I worked as a farmer. In 1953 when the French came and lived in our country I was a soldier. In 1954 I became the mayor of a city. The city is called Cau Ho. I watch over the people and I'm also a soldier at that time. I would like to talk more about my work and what I have accomplished.

    I was a soldier and a mayor until 1960 when the American people came. They bring us weapons to help us fight the Communists. In my job as a leader over the soldiers, I had to choose a group, each group of the soldiers. Like when the government wanted more soldiers, I have to choose them. I'm the one that arrange everything and give them the soldiers. I was elected three times to be Mayor. I had control of the weapon center and I also work with the people, watching the people as a mayor in this country does.

    Within my family when I was a soldier, three of my family member has died and six or seven of my soldier die. I was notarized as a mayor, you can see the symbol, this one was pretty long. I was promoted to governor. My job didn't involve anything with the economics. We really don't have any money to look after. We raise our own animals and we have our own farms. I'm the judge if we have any problem. They come to me and I help them solve their problems. When I was a soldier, I pay the money to the soldier like the government would pay him. As a soldier, they give them rice every month and I have to control this for their families.

    See Chapter 2 for original Hmong interview.

    Download Nhia Yer Ying 4 (Hmong)
    10:45 Minutes | 10.33Mb


    Excerpt of original interview in Hmong language.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Verb:  To complete a task successfully.  (accomplishes, accomplishing, accomplished)


    Noun: A member of a Communist political party or movement, or a supporter of the political philosophy of communism; they usually advocate for a classless society with communal ownership of property, and often set up one-party totalitaran type governments.


    Noun:  The management of the money and resources of a community or system.


    Verb:  Authenticate by a public official.  (notarizes, notarizing, notarized)


    Verb:  1. To raise someone or something to a more important or responsible job, rank, or position.  2. To advocate or urge on behalf of something or someone.  (promotes, promoting, promoted)


    Noun:  A character or glyph representing an idea, concept or object.


    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: 469