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Paj Ntaub Voice: The voices of the Hmong.: Becoming Minnesotan

Mai Neng Moua, Open Book, downtown Minneapolis, November 29, 2008.
  • Name - Mai Neng Moua
  • Age at interview - 25
  • Gender - Female
  • Generation - First Generation American / Refugee
  • Date of Interview - 12.01.1999
  • Hmong storycloth.  Photo courtesy MayKao Hang.
    Paj Ntaub Voice, 2000s.  Minnesota Historical Society.

    We Are Here
    Contributions

    Essential Question

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

    Contributions: How is America better off because of this group of immigrants?

    Words to look for

    volunteer
    accomplish

    Background Information

    The Hmong people began immigrating to the U.S. as refugees in 1976, and more continue to arrive each year to join family members currently living here.  Hmong children in the U.S. have much more time away from their parents than they did in Southeast Asia, and they are sometimes influenced more by their American peers and culture around them than their parents at home.  The Hmong elders are trying to maintain their traditions at home, but some think that this is not enough.  This is a critical time, as the Hmong refugees adapt to life in the U.S., and there is a fear that once they lose pieces of their traditional culture it will be very difficult to get them back.   

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

    • Chapter 1

    Download Mai Neng Moua 3
    3:6 Minutes | 2.98Mb

    Transcription

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

    Narrator: Mai Neng Moua (MNM)

    Interviewer: Kim Yang (KY)

    KY:  Was there anything that you had done to help others, like your relatives or your neighbors?

    MNM:  Right now I spend lots of time volunteering. I want someone to pay me, but no one pays me. But these are things I want to do, so I do them anyway.

    In our church, I am the Sunday School Director for the children. I look for materials and teachers to teach the classes, and I also keep track of the number of children in a class.

    Right now all of our teachers are youth and we are gathering ideas to see how we can attract the adults to help us teach the children and what topics they are going to teach.

    Because the adults kept saying, “Oh, but you guys are the ones who know how to speak English. The children are more familiar with you.” But I thought, “I don’t want just the youth to teach because whenever the adults come teach the children won’t like them.” So I thought we have to teach other things—Hmong culture or folktales. Even the little ones should be taught, “This is an ear or an eye” or we should teach them to write Hmong. So if the adults don’t know how to teach in English then they teach other things such as the Hmong language.

    In addition, I also volunteer to edit a journal, Paj Ntaub Voice, for the Hmong community. I started this a long time ago, in 1994. At that time I was in college. I started writing poetry but when I went to find Hmong writings and poetry, I could not find any. I found lots of books where people talked about us but I couldn’t find those that were written by us. So, you can find the voices of the Vietnamese, the voices of the Chinese, the voices of the Japanese but you can’t find the voices of the Hmong. I wondered why was it that we Hmong were so talented in folksongs and the arts but I couldn’t find our voices? Why don’t we write down our folktales? Why do we let others write about us? So I started Paj Ntaub Voice for Hmong youth and adults so that we would have a place where we could hear the voices of the Hmong so that we would know our folktales. This journal says that we created it out of the Hmong for us.

    KY:  Do you have dreams or anything that you want to accomplish in the near future?

    MNM:  Right now what I want in life is in terms of work and career. I don’t really know what I’m going to do because the things that I enjoy doing and those that I spend most of my time on, people don’t pay me for them. When it comes to my job and career, I want to be a writer. I want to create writing programs for the Hmong to teach both the young and old. I want to write about our lives, write about ourselves. In addition, I am still editing the journal Paj Ntaub Voice. I want it to be bigger than what it is right now. Because right now it’s just the beginning so there is no one paying us yet. We did this by ourselves, and I want our voices to heard all over the world so that they would know that we Hmong have poems, folktales and other arts too. So I want my job to be this, to come to the arts more and more. That project regarding the arts to become a little more successful.


    Related Glossary Terms

    accomplish

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

    community

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

    culture

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

    edit

    Verb:  To prepare written material for publication by correcting and revising the text.  (edits, editing, edited)

    journal

    Noun:  A newspaper or magazine dealing with a particular subject.

    material

    Adjective:  Worldly, as opposed to spiritual. 

    Noun:  Something used or made for the object of study.

    paj ntaub

    Noun:  Hmong word literally meaning "flower cloths," or woven pieces of fabric that use patterns from nature that are symbolic of Hmong culture.

    Listen to this word: 

    Vietnamese

    Adjective:  Of or pertaining to Vietnam.

    Noun:  1. Inhabitant of Vietnam or person of Vietnamese descent.  2. Language spoken predominantly in Vietnam.

    volunteer

    Noun:  One who enters into, or offers for, any service of his/her own free will, especially when done without pay.

    Verb:  To enlist oneself as a volunteer; to do or offer to do something voluntarily.  (volunteers, volunteering, volunteered)

    Citation

    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: 486