Sarah M. | Mariah
| Nate | Pao | Alex
| Erika | Gabby
Dang Yang (pronounced Da Ya in traditional
Hmong) was born in Laos, high in the mountains. He learned
to make and play beautiful instruments when he was a child.
In 1958 his family moved to Kaos, a little Hmong village.
Dang’s family stayed there while his father went out
to find and bring back Dang’s father-in-law and brother-in-law.
But a messenger came and told the family that the Communist
army had killed Dang’s father. They were very sad, and
for months they cried. The people in the village had a party
for them. There they played a song on the Hmong violin that
was happy and joyful. Dang has remembered the song to this
day. All of a sudden, the cloud of darkness over Dang’s
In 1967 Dang’s mother married again. Soon after that
the Communists started to take over the country, and Dang’s
family was forced to move from town to town. In 1968, at the
age of 15, Dang joined the army. He was the one from his family
chosen to go, because in Hmong tradition it is the eldest
son who goes. If the father leaves the family, it is very
bad luck. Dang stayed in the army for seven years. In 1975
he returned to the village he had lived in, hoping to find
his family, but there was nothing. No people, no houses—just
pigs, cows, chickens, sheep and horses the villagers had left
behind in their flight from the Communists.
When Dang finally found his family, they traveled together
through the jungle. While they were walking through the huge
jungle, Dang’s mother and father died of water poisoning.
The journey took Dang and nine others one month and 15 days.
On July 22, 1980, Dang arrived in America. For the first
two years he lived with a sponsor in Manitowoc. For a hobby,
Dang and his friends played soccer! See—he isn’t
much different from other Americans at all!
In the summer of 1982 he moved to Milwaukee. Somebody told
him about a job opening, and needing a job he quickly accepted,
even though it only paid three dollars per hour. In 1983,
Dang realized that he was very lonely. Right around that time
he met Lee. Lee told us that whenever she saw Dang he was
sad and crying in loneliness. He asked her to marry him, and
even though she was only 15 she agreed. It might seem a little
strange to think about marrying so young, but in Hmong culture
that is the custom. However, Lee tells HER daughters that
they must finish high school and college before they can marry,
because times have changed, and it is very important to have
a good education. Now Lee and Dang speak very good English
(as well as Hmong, Laos, French and Thai!) and are living
in a house in Milwaukee. So I think that they are adjusting
well to American culture.
Dang Yang’s father died when Dang
Yang was seven years old. It must of been sad for him, really
When Dang went to America he played songs
about his mother and father. That made him sad, so he cried
Every New Year Lee makes Hmong clothes
[for the family]. Dang’s clothes are black with orange
designs. Their daughter is the best dresser in her school.
Lee says that she wants her daughter to always dress good.
Dang Yang was born in Laos in 1953. The
village he lived in was small. Dang's father died when he
was seven. His mother married a second time. Dang's family
moved from town to town for a while until 1968, when Dang
was fifteen and was drafted for the army. By the time he got
out, his whole village was gone.
Lee married Dang in America when she
was 15. The Hmong traditionally marry early. Lee wants her
daughters NOT to marry that young. She wants them to go to
college, to have an education, and to take care of themselves,
and then marry. But if someone special comes along, she won't
outlaw marriage as a possibility.
Lee wants her children to learn how to
sew and Dang wants them to learn how to make and play instruments.
They tell their children Hmong folktales. Their family sometimes
goes to Shamans. Lee got married when she was 15, but she
wants her children to finish college.