Connecting the past to the present

Hmong Heritage Month brings tradition and contemporary culture together


RAISING AWARENESS: The display case on the first floor of Hibbard Humanities Hall shows students of Hmong heritage with signs refuting racial stereotypes. © 2014 Elizabeth Jackson, The Spectator

Story by Katy Macek, Copy Editor

Throughout the month of April, Hmong students at UW-Eau Claire have been celebrating, teaching and learning about their culture in celebration of Hmong Heritage Month.

The event began in the beginning of April with an info booth in Davies Center. Students handed out fliers and explained what the month represents. Since then, students have shown two Hmong documentaries, held a volleyball tournament and a folktale and storytelling session.

Pa Kue Vue, a sophomore advertising major, said she attended several of the events last year and wanted to be more involved in the planning this year.

Hmong Heritage Month isn’t all about raising awareness in the community, she said, because they know it’s there. This month is an educational experience for everyone involved.

“It’s really a time for us to see our heritage, celebrate it and do more than just the food, fun and festivals of it,” she said.

On Monday, students held a symposium at Woodland Theatre in Davies Center featuring three guest speakers who spoke about various contemporary issues in the Hmong community.

Vue said these topics ranged from family dynamics to academic success.

“This is a good time for us to get students who maybe didn’t grow up doing all these things, or learning about their own culture and history,” she said. “It’s just a good time for us to get together to actually talk, learn about ourselves.”

Symposium speakers included Zha Blong Xiong, an associate professor from The University of Minnesota, Pau Lor from UW-Green Bay and Hui Nui Wilcox from Saint Catherine University (Minn.).

While this event isn’t exactly a celebration, Vue said events like this are more important for people to attend, especially those from different cultural backgrounds.

“We have the fun and festivals, but we also want the critical side of it, and I think that’s what we want the community and campus to come to,” she said.

Choua Her, a freshman who is also a member of the executive board for planning this month’s events, said these events are a way for her to get in touch with parts of her culture and heritage that may have gotten lost growing up in the U.S.

“I didn’t learn most of these things growing up, so I think this is a great opportunity for me to learn and just listen to other people’s perspectives on what Hmong Heritage Month could be,” she said.

She said the events are important to promote a sense of culture among students and give the community a better understanding of what Hmong culture is and where it comes from.

Hui Nui Wilcox, one of the speakers, did a presentation on Hmong racialization in America with a study she and a colleague conducted called, “Hmong and/in Asian America: The Politics of Racial Formation and Ethnic Identities.”

The conclusions gathered from the study suggest data on Hmong Americans came from small subsets of their culture, but failed to look at the bigger picture, thus creating a master narrative about Hmong Americans in the U.S. that doesn’t fully compensate for individual Hmong communities.

“The diversity within the community is not recognized, because your focus is on comparing this community versus the mainstream society,” Wilcox said in her presentation. “When you focus on the comparison you lose sight of the diversity within.”

The month will end with the first annual Hmong Heritage Month banquet 6-9:30 p.m. Friday in the Ojibwe Ballroom in Davies.