I don't use the word 'meeting'.: Becoming Minnesotan

Male silhouette.
  • Name - Henry Nelson
  • Age at interview - 38
  • Gender - Male
  • Generation - First Generation American / Refugee
  • Date of Interview - 08.13.1992
  • Pitaro Khouth and Mary Khouth listening to language tapes at Centennial School.
    Cambodian monks from Washington, D.C. celebrating Pchum Ben at Highland Park H.S


    Essential Question

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

    Assimilation: Does a person have to give up part of his/her culture to become more American?

    Words to look for

    Background Information

    The Khmer are the people of Cambodia.  In 1974 a Communist group called the Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot, gained control of Cambodia.  The Khmer Rouge wanted to transform Cambodia into an agriculture-based classless society, and to remove all Western influence.  Educated people, professionals, city-dwellers, and any opponents of the Communists were quickly rounded up and placed into forced labor camps in the countryside.  Many Khmer were executed under this tyrannical regime, and many others died of starvation, exposure and exhaustion.  During the period of genocide from 1975-1979 approximately 1.4 million people were executed, and it is estimated that a total of 20% of the Cambodian population died.  To Cambodians who lived in the Khmer Rouge work camps, "meetings" were terrible gatherings that everyone had to attend where the soldiers would select one person to kill each night in front of the crowd.

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

    • Chapter 1

    Download Henry Nelson 17
    1:2 Minutes | 1Mb


    Narrator: Henry Nelson (HN)

    Interviewer: Jim Dorsey (JD)

    JD:  You mentioned the word, the use of the word “meeting" brings back memories of meetings that you used to have to attend. Are there any other words or phrases or events that bring back memories?

    HN:  The word “meeting" is bad for the Cambodian people. And every time I work with the Refugee Immigrant Resource Center, when I gathering the elderly together to the meeting to give them education on the culture, American cultures, give them a speaker at the meeting. I really convince them a lot before I get them in. I tell them using another words, I not using the "meeting." I'm using the word that invite them to "discussions."  A live activity, and what we can cooperate together to make our community strong and better. Understand each other. I use all those sentences. I don't use the word "meeting."

    Related Glossary Terms


    Noun:  A group of people who share a common understanding of the same language, manners, tradition and law.


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


    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: 569