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Akha
The Akha, also known to the Thai as the Gaw or the E-gaw (names that the Akha do not like), are located primarily with Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai provinces. The Akha are closely related with the Hani of Yunnan province, China, the Akha-Hani complex numbers about two to three million people, but with just over 70,000 members in Thai territory. The Akha speak a language in the Lolo/Yi branch of the Tibeto-Burman language group, but have no traditional written language. There are a variety of schemes for writing Akha developed by missionaries or linguists which employ Roman, Thai or Burmese characters, but literacy in Akha is still virtually nil. The Akha are traditionally subsistence farmers, growing a variety of crops including rice and corn.
Though many Akha, especially younger people, profess Christianity, Akha Zang (The Akha Way), a total lifestyle perscribed in the oral literature of the Akhas, still runs deep in the consciousness of older generations. The Akha Way combines animism, ancestor worship and their deep relationship with the land.. For an Akha, the Akha Way is a way of life which extends beyond simple religious practice and infuses every aspect of their existence. The Akha Way emphasizes rituals in everyday life and stresses strong family ties; every Akha male can recount his geneology back over fifty generations to the first Akha, Sm Mi O.
But the chain of continuity so important for Akha people is being broken. A combination of Thai schooling, land restrictions, some missionary activities, technology and a feeling of social inferiority to lowland Thais is making the once essential Akha Way less attractive and relevant for younger generations who are rapidly integrating into Thai society.
  Karen
The Karen, who call themselves Pwakin-nyaw and who are known as Kariang to ethnic Thais, are one of the largest hilltribes in Southeast Asia with a total population of about three million spread throughout Burma, Laos and Thailand. There are an estimated 320,000 Karen in Thailand alone, which makes up half of the total hilltribe population in Thai territory.
Traditionally the Karen live at lower elevations than the other hilltribes and although they still practice slash and burn, unlike many hilltribes they live in permanent villages and have been aggressive in developing environmentally sustainable terraced rice fields. These factors have allowed the Karen to become much more integrated members of Thai society. The Karens living at lower elevations almost universally have Thai citizenship which has allowed them to buy land and to have access to free secondary education, luxuries other hilltribes do not yet have.
Much of the Karen population in Thailand and Burma is Christian and has been for multiple generations. Christian Karens are very strong in their beliefs.
Among hilltribes in Thailand, the Karen have a distinct advantage. The size of the Karen population and their unification in their religion allow them to adapt while still retaining their cultural identity.
Lisu
The Lisu have a legend quite similar to that of many other tribes in Southeast Asia. Long ago there was a giant flood. There were only two survivors: one man and one woman. These two were brother and sister. They survived by living off the meat inside a giant bottle gourd. Once the water had receded, the pair set out in search of other survivors, but to their dismay, they found no one. They became convinced they must be the last remaining man and woman in the world. They realized that if they did not reproduce then mankind would disappear off the face of the planet forever. Still, they couldn't get over the fact they were brother and sister. Finally, they decided to to consult the spirits. Seeing a grinding stone and a mortar on top of a hill, the pair determined to separate the two parts and roll them down opposite sides of the hill. When the grinding stone reached the base of the hill it refused to stop rolling. Instead, it persisted in rolling all the way around to the other side of the hill and reuniting with the mortar, ending up in exactly the same position it had been when on top of the hill. It did not matter what objects the pair used to test their fate, the results were identical each time. The older brother and younger sister agreed that God must have given his blessing to the union. Soon they had produced a son and a daughter which marked the new birth of the tribe.


What "Lisu" means
Lisu earned their name as the tribe that is alive with color. In fact, the Lisu are considered to use the greatest variety of colors of all the hill tribes. Their confident decision-making and independence is reflected in the way the Lisu use powerful combinations of colors, one on top of the other, to decorate their costumes. Often referred to as "Lisor," they refer to themselves as "Lisu." The word "Li" comes from the word "eelee," which means custom, tradition, or culture; "su" means "person." The combined meaning is: a group of people who share a deep pride in their customs, traditions, and culture. The Lisu are a people who love order and independence. The established social order is flexible, allowing room for change and diversity. Different cultures and customs are not dismissed out of hand, but new things must pass through a democratic decision-making process before being accepted. Processes like these make Lisus good managers, in general, and have allowed the Lisu have been quite successful at adapting to change.

The Lisu are a people with a hunger for understanding about life. Their language falls into the Yi-Lolo subgroup of the Tibeto-Burman family of languages. About 30% of the language comes from the Chinese Haw dialect. Originally, the Lisu were from the area near headwaters of the Salaween and Mekong rivers, located in northern Tibet and the northwest portion of Yunnan province, China. The Lisu immigrated into Thailand around the year 1921. This first group of migrants was made up of only 4 families. They settled in a village now known as Huay San in the capital of Chiang Rai province. Later, in that same year, 15 more families made the journey. As the Lisu have no traditional written language, though a group of missionaries interacting with this first group helped create a romanization of Lisu. Some Lisu are now Christian. About five to six years after the initial move into Thailand, the group separated, with one group remaining behind and the other moving to Doi Chang in the district of Mae Sruay, Chiang Rai province.
The Lisu are divided into two sub-groups: the striped Lisu and the black Lisu. Almost all Lisu residing in Thailand are of the striped Lisu sub-group. The black Lisu are spread out across China, Burma, India, and Thailand. The Lisu in Thailand are scattered across nine different provinces: Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Mae Hong Son, Phayao, Tak, Kampaengphet, Phetchaboon, Sukhothai, and Lampang. Originally, the Lisu divided themselves into seven different family dynasties: honey (bia-seu-wee), wood (seu-pa), fish (gua-pa), bear, rice bug, wheat, and hemp. The honey dynasty is the largest of these family lines, and it is itself divided into three smaller sub-dynasties. There are nine family lines branching off from inter-tribal marriages with the Haw Chinese: Lee, Yang, Yao, Woo, Kao, Ho, Joo, and Jang. The two largest of these lines are the Lee and Yang line.
Religiously, the Lisu worship their ancestors and the great Spirit. They have two religious heads: the cultural leader (meu-meu-pa) and the ceremonial leader (nee-pa).

Population
In mid-1983 there were approximately 18,000 Lisu spread out over 110 villages in Thailand. In 1958 a survey concluded there were only about 7,500 Lisu, meaning their numbers multiplied at a rate of 3.6% per year over the course of 25 years. Most of the expansion accounts for new immigrants to the country, rather than births. For perspective, in 1983 there were 250,000 Lisu in Burma and about 500,000 in China. Hundreds of families crossed the border and settled in the north and northwest. Interestingly, there are no Lisu in Laos or Vietnam. The Lisu in Thailand are divided up across the different provinces as follows: 47% in Chiang Mai, 23% in Chiang Rai, 19% in Mae Hong Son, with the other 11% scattered across Phayao, Tak, Kampaengphet, Phetchaboon, and Sukhothai. The Lisu now living in Thailand are quite different from their relatives in northern Burma. This may be due to the fact that the Lisu began in China and divided up and separated out over many different generations. This is not to mention all the inter-marriage that occurred between the Lisu and the Haw Chinese, to the point that these Lisu began referring to themselves as Chinese-Lisu.
A survey conducted in 1997 by the Hill Tribe Research Institute found there were 30,940 Lisu living across 151 villages in 5,114 households. This accounts for 4.11% of all the hill tribe peoples living in the country. 23% are in Chiang Mai, 19% in Chiang Rai, 11% in Mae Hong Son, and the rest are spread out across Phayao, Tak, Kampaengphet, Phetchaboon, and Sukhothai.

The past and current organizational structure in a Lisu village:
1. Kwa-Too (Leader of the community): This person is elected to the position by the villagers.
2. Meu-Meu-Pa (Ceremonial leader): The holder of this position is chosen by way of ah-bpa-mo (a fortune-telling ceremony). Each village can have only one Meu-Meu-Pa. The ceremonial leader's responsibilities are to act as a medium between the great Spirit and the villagers, and to announce and conduct ceremonies to observe the various sacred days of the year.
3. Nee-Pa (Spirit doctor): This individual is elected and appointed by the spirits of the ancient ancestors of the family dynasty and is responsible for maintaining the connection between the spirit world and the world of humans.
4. Cho-Mo-Cho-Dtee (Head elder): An elder in the village who is respected and revered by all the younger members of the village.

Presently:
1. Kwa-Too (Leader of the community): Now the official village headman.
2. Meu-Meu-Pa (Ceremonial leader): Still appointed in the same way as in the past.
3. Assistants to the village headman (1-2 assistants): Appointed by the headman.
4. Official representative to the Tambon Administration Organization: This position is an appointed one and the appointee is responsible for general administration work in the village and managing and maintaining a budget from the government.
5. The village committee.
6. Advisor: Cho-Mo-Cho-Dtee (Head elder).
7. Nee-Pa (Spirit doctor): Responsible for performing miscellaneous ceremonies.
As for the Lisu Village Organization (Tribal Organization), its role was not all that clear in the past, but was best known for its work in bringing distant relatives of the same family dynasty together. In other words, the organization was not an official one, but was known and respected among the Lisu. In the past, it had a long list of roles and responsibilities in Lisu society. Now, distant relatives continue to come together to perform various ceremonies of importance to the family.

Hmong
The Hmong have passed down their ancient art of healing from generation to generation. Their spirit doctors have the power to cast out evil spirits from the bodies of the sick. According to legend, a long time ago there was a spirit doctor named Chee yee, which roughly translated, means a wise philosopher/a wiseman/a master. One day, Master Chee yee came across a pile of Naga dragon's eggs near the edge of a cliff. Master Chee yee cracked the eggs open and continued on his way home. Three days later Master Chee yee returned to see what had happened to the eggs, but to his surprise they had all returned to their original state, whole and sound. Master Chee yee decided to crack all the eggs once more and came back the next day to see what happened, but again the eggs had returned to their original state. Master Chee yee became quite curious and decided to crack all the eggs once more, but this time he would wait in hiding and see how the eggs managed to return to their original state.
Master Chee yee did not have to wait long before a giant Naga dragon returned to find that her eggs had all been cracked. The mother Naga dragon went to the edge of the cliff and picked the leaves of a medicinal plant. After chewing up the leaves in her mouth she then proceeded to apply a layer of the ointment to the broken eggs. After the first application the eggs began to improve slightly. Following the second application the eggs improved even further. By the third application the eggs had returned to their original condition, totally healed.

After seeing this, Master Chee yee waited anxiously until the Naga dragon left again. He then made for the eggs and broke them open with a rock. Next, he proceeded to climb down the cliff face until he reached the medicinal plant, which he had seen the mother Naga dragon use. He picked the plant and took it back home with him to take care of it. Two days later he returned to see what had happened to the eggs he cracked and found them laying out, rotting in the sun. Master Chee yee realized the value of the plant he had taken and resolved to take extra special care of it. It wasn't long before he began to care for the sick and suffering in his village, successfully curing them of their ailments. He was even able to resuscitate people that had died.

As a result, Master Chee yee became famous as word of his amazing healing power spread throughout the land. The special plant, which Master Chee yee had so cleverly discovered, was named "goo-ah moo-ah joo-ah." It wasn't long before word of Master Chee yee reached the spirits of the underworld - known as da in Hmong - and they decided to teach Master Chee yee a lesson. Seven da were sent to the village and they proceeded to devour the villagers. Many people were dying and Master Chee yee could not care for them fast enough. Finally, one day Master Chee yee ran into the da, or spirits of the underworld, and quickly devised a strategy for ridding the village of these evil creatures. Master Chee yee and the seven da met and began to bargain. Master Chee yee complained to the da that he was unable to heal everyone in time, causing many to die. He had the Seven da each raise up one of their arms, then he bent over and looked at their arm pits. He saw many dead people (It is believed that by peering through one's legs or under arms one can see into a different dimension).


Next the da had Master Chee yee raise one of his arms and when they peered into his arm pit they saw many chickens, ducks and other animals left as offerings to him (these would have been gifts made to him by the families of those who he had healed). Both sides having sized up their opponent, Master Chee yee made the da an offer. He challenged them to a duel, stating that if he lost the da would be free to eat all the people in the world. First, however, the da must accompany him to the cliff edge where he would spray medicine at them. If Master Chee yee stumbled and fainted, then he would be considered the loser and the da could proceed to eat all the people in the world. But, if he didn't faint, the da would have to immediately stop eating people. The da agreed and Master Chee yee proceeded to spray his medicine at them. Master Chee yee pretended to become faint and wobbled back and forth. The da laughed with glee at his plight. Master Chee yee stabilized himself and sprayed his medicine at them for the second time. The da continued to be unaffected by the medicine and laughed hysterically at Master Chee yee's drunken stuppor, certain of their victory. Finally, Master Chee yee sprayed his medicine at them for the third time and the da immediately all turned to stone. Master Chee yee had tricked the evil da and the village was once again peaceful.
After two days had passed by and the wives of the seven da still had not seen their husbands come home, they decided to come up and investigate. After seeing what had happened they decided to try to fool Master Chee yee into coming with them to the city of spirits to treat (or oo-ah neng) a sick patient. Once Master Chee yee had gone, one of the da's wives killed Master Chee yee's eldest son and took him down to the city of spirits to be used in the healing ceremony for her husband. Upon entering the city of spirits the boy turned into a pig (the Hmong believe that once a dead person reaches the city of spirits they turn into an animal). The healing ceremony was carried out in the same manner Master Chee yee had always done, and when it was complete the da's wives offered Master Chee yee the liver of the pig used in the ceremony to eat. Master Chee yee had a strange feeling, but had to accept the offering, and so he ate a piece of the the liver (Chee-ya). Immediately the jeu neng, or instruments used in oo-ah neng (meaning "working with spirits") spun away and returned to earth.
Lahu
The Lahu are a strong independent and very diverse ethnic group who number about 60,000 in Thailand. The Lahu are located primarly in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai provinces, but can also be found in considerable numbers as far south as Tak province. Their settlements are usually remote from roads and towns, due to their strong commitment to the maintenance of the Lahu way of life.
The Lahu are complex and diverse ethnicity. In Thailand there are no fewer than six different Lahu tribes, some of whose languages are not mutually intelligible. The majority of Lahus in Thailand are Red Lahu, pantheistic animists who follow a Dtobo, a messianic leader. There are also a significant number of Black, Yellow and Shehleh Lahus in Thailand, many of whom have been Christian for nearly one hundred years. Black Lahu are the most populous throughout Southeast Asia and theirs is considered to be the standard Lahu dialect.
Although primarily subsistence farmers, growing rice and corn for their own consumption, the Lahu are also proud of their hunter-warrior heritage. They remain a strict, serious people governed by strong principles of right and wrong, every individual in the village answering to the common will of the elders. While less importance is placed on the extended family than in other hill tribe communities, the Lahu are still strongly committed to principles of unity and working together for survival. Lahus may have the most gender-equitable society in the world.
The Mien Culture/Groups

Evidence of Mien (Yao) history as far back as 5th BC.
For the past 2000 years, the records show that the Mien lived in the surrounding mountains near Tibet. The Mien moved constantly because they did not like the controlling ruling from the Han. There were as many as 28 sub-names under the Mien. There were 4 major groups of Mien, the Phan (Bienh), the Bunu, the Cha Sun, and Ping Ti. Out of the 4 groups, the Phan (Bienh) group had the most man-power, and that was the group that constantly moving from place to place. The Phan group had concentrated in one large area of the country, where the Mien language was developed. The Bunu and the Luc Jaa developed into separate languages.

Legend of the Creation of the Mien People

In heaven, there were Daa Ong (Grandfather) and Daa Gux (Grandmother). One day they decided to create the Yao, or the Mien people. They planned to transform themselves and live on Earth . During that time, there were two kingdoms already exist on earth, one ruled by Baeng Hung (the good side), and the other by Gux Hung (the bad side). They hated each other very much .
As they two had planned in heaven, Daa Gux would come down to earth reborn as a third daughter of Baeng Hung (with a birthmark on one leg), while Daa Ong would transform himself into whatever was needed. During the war between Baeng Hung and Gux Hung. Baeng Hung announced to his whole kingdom, "whoever can bring me Gux Hung's head, I'll reward you with marriage to my third daughter and some land ." No one answered the Baeng Hung's demand.
One day Daa Ong transformed himself into a five-colored dragon-dog named Phan Hu . The dog showed himself up at Baeng Hung's palace . The emperor had never seen a dragon-dog such as this one, full of talent, with 120 beautiful spots on the top of its body, and could talk . The emperor ordered his people to take a good care of the dog . The dog had become Baeng Hung's trusted, loving pet .

One day, Baeng Hung and his staff had a meeting, planning the war with Gux Hung. The dragon-dog was there at the meeting as well. At the end of the discussion, the dragon-dog spoke up, he said "Baeng Hung doesn't have to send thousands of armies, military equipments to fight Gux Hung. I will volunteer to fight Gux Hung myself. Since I'm a dog, the least respected animal, Gux Hung and her military probably will not think I can cause any harm to them." Baeng Hung agreed with the dog. He wanted to see what the dog could do.

Phan Hu (dragon-dog) prepared for the departure. He asked heaven to send him a magic pill, which helped him endure his 7 days 7 nights swimming accross the sea to Gux Hung.
The dragon-dog arrived Gux Hung's empire. Gux Hung admired the beautiful talking dog. She kept it as her own body guard. The dog became Gux Hung's favorite pet as well. Gux Hung was confident with the dog, therefore, she no longer needed her servants and body guards at all times. One day, Gux Hung sent her servants and body guards out for the daily chores. The dragon-dog took that opportunity, and bit Gux Hung's head off then swam back across the sea with the head as proof to Baeng Hung. In return, the dragon-dog was married to Baeng Hung's third daughter (as promised).
As the wedding day neared, Baeng Hung, the emperor realized he didn't really want his third daughter to marry a dragon-dog. So, Baeng Hung called nine women who looked identical to his third daughter and then dressed them up with identical gowns. The dragon-dog had to pick from the ten identical women. Daa Gux (the third daughter) was one of the ten. This ruse, however, did not fool Daa Ong a.k.a. Phan Hu (dragon-dog). The dog looked for the birthmark on the leg. The dragon-dog picked the third daughter of Baeng Hung and was married to her. They moved to an isolated piece of land given to them by Baeng Hung and had 12 children, six sons and six daughters. These six sons and the husbands of the six daughters became patriarchs of the twelve Mien clans.

The Iu Mien 12 Clans
When talking about the original twelve clans, it is difficult for almost any Mien to name all of them since a few of the clans got lost or left behind when escaping from mainland China many generations ago. Another complicating factor is that the names that the Thais gave to each clan (which are the basis for today's Mien surnames in Thailand and the United States) not only depended on what each Thai interviewer heard their clan name to be, but also differs from the names that Miens call themselves. For instance, Ann (Saefung) and Laosan (Saefong) spell their official last names differently, yet each will identify themselves as a member of the Bungz (pronounced Bpung) clan. Notice that when Ann introduces herself, she first says her Thai name, then her Mien clan (in this case calling it La Bpung), then finally her Mien given name.

Note: The "Sae" prefix was appended by Thai authorities to designate a last name derived from a Chinese clan. Hmongs and ethnic Chinese, especially Hakka and Teochiu, also were originally given names of this form, though most have changed their names since; Hmongs doing so by dropping the Sae, Chinese by requesting an official four-syllable Thai last name from the Thai government. Most Miens have kept the Sae appended to their names.

The letters q, z, h, and c at the end of the clan names are silent and are used to indicate the tone in which a word is said.


Migration from China to Thailand and Beyond
The Mien, who are also related to the lowland-living Lanten peoples of Laos and Vietnam, are believed to have begun migrating from Hunan province in China during the 15th-16th century and spread throughout northern Vietnam, northern Laos and northern Thailand. Immigration into Thailand was sharply accelerated after the Indochina War when victorious Pathet Lao forces began seeking reprisal for the involvement of many Mien as soldiers in a CIA-sponsored secret army. As a token of appreciation to the Mien and Hmong people who served in the CIA secret army, the United States accepted many of the refugees as naturalized citizens. Now there are as many as 50,000 Miens living in the United States, largely concentrated on the West Coast, particularly northern California.

 
 
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