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The Future of Hmong Traditions: Traditional Culture or Mainstream American?

#1 Is it better for the Hmong to keep their traditional cultural expressions, or better for them to become mainstream Americans? Who gets to make that decision?

#2 Who do you most want to represent [in the exhibit], Hmong elders or Hmong kids?

I think it’s important for the Hmong to keep their traditions alive any way they can. If they didn’t, the world would be less interesting. But on the other hand, it’s good to adapt to American culture because it would be easier for children at school, and for Hmong adults to get jobs. If all the Hmong learn the English language it would be easier for others to give them jobs because they can communicate.

The decision should be made by the Hmong. The American government shouldn’t make the decision. Other Americans shouldn’t either. In fact in any culture this is true. Nobody should tell someone this is what you eat, this is what you wear, and this is what you believe. America is supposed to be a free country, and if we go around telling people how to do things and what to believe, that’s not really free. Is it? Nobody has the right to change someone’s culture. My question is, why do we try?
–Izzy S.

I think the Hmong people still do their own traditions but they can speak English to know and understand Americans. The Hmong people get to make their own decisions...

The [Hmong] persons get to make the decision because it’s their life...

I think that it is better for Hmong people to keep their tradition. I think it is better to keep their culture because they understand it more better than American culture. I also think that Hmong people should make the decision because it’s their culture. You can’t just force them.

I believe that the Hmong people should keep their traditional expressions otherwise there might not be any Hmong people left because they would all be Americans, and personally I don’t want that to happen.

It’s better for them to keep their culture, because if they become mainstream Americans it’s a whole culture lost, just like what happened to Jewish Russians when the Nazis wiped them out, only Americans will wipe the Hmong out. 

I think that it is better for the Hmong to keep their traditional cultural practices because...they can have two ways of doing things. They can have a doctor or a shaman, an American or a Hmong funeral, or a Hmong wedding or an American wedding. Another reason is that America is made up of many cultures---European, African, Hispanic, Japanese, Chinese, other Asians, etc. It would be more harmonic to let the people themselves decide if they want to be different or like everyone else. The people who practice that culture OWN it. They get to use it in ANY way. It’s THEIRS! I mean, it’s a free country!

If the traditions of shamanism, New Year’s celebrations, and Paj Ntaub are forgotten, there wouldn’t be such a thing as Hmong culture. So I hope that Hmong traditions get passed on from generation to generation so that the culture is kept alive. On the other hand, it would be easier for the Hmong if they adopted some things about mainstream American culture, such as the language and skills required to live here. Already, the Hmong are doing just that, in coming to America, finding homes and jobs, and adapting to the way things are done here.

Both elders and kids should be represented. Kids should be represented because people who come to the exhibit will be kids, and it would be more interesting for them to see and relate to people of their own age. Also, kids are a good example of adapting to mainstream American culture, because Hmong children are living between two worlds—their life at school in mainstream American culture, and at home, in traditional Hmong culture. Often, children are the translators, which would be very surprising and interesting for kids who come to the exhibit. But after saying all that, elders are important as well. We have gotten most of our information from them. They know much more about life in Laos and Thailand, and remember traditions like butchering and healing...
–Sarah M.

I think we should show Hmong kids in the exhibit because kids can relate to them more than elders. Also, kids have to bridge two cultures: Hmong at home and American at school.

Most of us in the class think it’s better for the Hmong to keep their traditions rather than to assimilate...but in truth this is not our decision to make. It’s the Hmong themselves who have final say.

I think the Hmong should balance their culture between mainstream and traditional cultures...I also think the Hmong can make the decision [themselves] but I’m not sure because I don’t stay connected with political stuff. In the exhibit, we should show mainstream and traditional cultures mixed together...I suggest doing Hmong kids a little more because this is a kids museum and I think children would rather learn about kids from a different culture than from adults.
–Sara K.

I think that the Hmong should be able to keep their traditional cultural expressions, yet be able to understand and be part of mainstream culture whenever they want. If that happens, then the Hmong will be able to adapt better to the American way of life. Many Hmong people, including just about everyone we met, have accomplished that.

The Hmong themselves should be able to make that decision. Of course, the Native Americans didn’t make that decision, the American government did. The Hmong shouldn’t have to go through that.

No government, no Christian, no anybody can tell the Hmong how to run their lives except the Hmong. I think the Hmong are very well off right now: They know two languages, they have two cultures, and they now are welcomed into the American culture.