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Understanding Ourselves

What has studying the Hmong meant to your understanding of your own culture? If you are Hmong, what has it been like to have your culture the object of our study?

Looking at a new culture made me realize I had a culture. 

I am Hmong. I am happy to let everybody see my culture. I just don’t want only like ten people to know but the whole wide world. 

When I learned about spirits and Shamanism and paj ntaub, I thought that compared to Hmong culture my culture was boring. But then I thought that if a class went deep into my culture they’d probably find things they thought were really cool, or interesting, or different—things that I live with every day but never noticed.
–Sarah M.

I like people to study my culture because I want them to understand my culture. My culture is a special culture. It has a lot of traditional stuff. Whoever studies my culture will get lots of good information. People should learn about my culture because my culture should be studied more and should exist more.

My culture and the Hmong culture are very different and also quite similar. For example, we both make our own food, but the kinds of food we make are different. The Hmong people have special clothes, our family sort of does too—blue jeans, long-sleeved shirts, tennis shoes, and occasionally dresses. The Hmong people love to garden; one of our family delights is gardening. The Hmong people use a lot of chickens; our family raises chickens. The Hmong people have traditions; so does our family. One of our traditions is we make gingerbread houses and decorate them with candy every Christmas.

Studying my own culture means a lot to me. I only knew 50 percent of my culture’s traditions but after the trips we took I knew 50 percent more so altogether I have learned 100 percent of my culture and traditions. It is okay for my culture to be an object to look at as long as no one says anything bad about how we are and what we do. I kinda got worried almost every place that our class had been to, because we didn’t really explain things right in English...

Going on these trips and learning about Hmong culture made me realize how different cultures can be. I’ve asked myself, “How would I survive with no running water or electricity?”

Studying the Hmong really didn’t help much in terms of understanding my own culture, although it did help me understand how to study my own culture in a better way...The ways we studied Hmong culture give me ideas on how to study my own culture.

Studying the Hmong culture has given me a better understanding of my culture and some other cultures. Hmong culture helped me understand spirits that are in my culture, and it was a way for me to understand Native American culture better. Before, I didn’t know what a shaman did. Now I learned that a shaman spiritually heals people, and not with medicine.

I learned that whether you came in 1920 or 1990 you came with a lot of the same customs, such as blacksmithing and needleworking...
–Izzy S.

When I first heard the word “culture” I had no idea what it meant. But after all the study on Hmong culture I was positive [I knew] what the word meant—culture is who you are. No culture is better or has greater value than any other. I think all cultures should be treated the same way.