From the Mountains of Laos to Minnesota, an American Immigration Success Story

For immediate release

Release dated: 
October 13, 2014
Media contacts: 

Katie Welch Len, Newsworthy Communications, 612-720-9374, katiep@newsworthycommunications.com
Wameng Moua, Hmong Today, 651-491-5946, hmongmn40@gmail.com
Jessica Kohen, Minnesota Historical Society, 651-259-3148, jessica.kohen@mnhs.org

From the Mountains of Laos to Minnesota, an American Immigration Success Story

"We Are Hmong Minnesota" exhibit to commemorate the Hmong people, culture and contributions since the migration from war-torn Laos 40 years ago.

November 2015 marks the 40th anniversary of the Hmong migration to Minnesota following the war in Southeast Asia. Today, the Twin Cities metro area is home to 66,000 Hmong, the largest urban Hmong population in the United States.

A new exhibit developed in partnership with the Hmong community, "We Are Hmong Minnesota," will debut March 7-Nov. 29, 2015, at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul. The exhibit will commemorate the anniversary and celebrate the significant political, social and economic contributions the Hmong have made to Minnesota and the nation.

"The Hmong are a resilient people. After fighting for the CIA in the secret war in Laos, many arrived in Minnesota barefoot and without a homeland” said Noah Vang, exhibit developer. “But today we are politicians, professors and business owners."

Hmong Migration from War-Torn Laos

Beginning in 1961, the United States government recruited Hmong to fight with U.S. forces in clandestine military operations inLaos. An estimated 35,000 Hmong soldiers died as a result of the war.

Following the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam in 1975, Laos was overthrown and the Hmong were targeted, resulting in a mass exodus and thousands who of deaths en route to U.N. refugee camps in Thailand. By November 1975, the Hmong began immigrating to the United States, with one of the first families settling in Minnesota.

Why Minnesota? The first arrivals came through Minnesota’s strong faith-based social service community. Later arrivals followed migration patterns, reunited with existing families or relocating from other parts of the U.S. to Minnesota in search of a better life.

Those first arrivals found Minnesota far different in climate, culture and economy from Laos. Mrs. True Vang of Inver Grove Heights, Minn., said of her experience in April 1976 that it was “like being born all over again.”

"We Are Hmong Minnesota" Exhibit

The “We Are Hmong Minnesota” exhibit is developed by the Hmong community in partnership with the Minnesota Historical Society. It is the brainchild of independent researcher and writer Noah Vang, "Hmong Today" editor Wameng Moua, and Director of the Center for Hmong Studies and Concordia University Professor of History Lee Pao Xiong.

The exhibit showcases Hmong culture and contributions to Minnesota over the past 40 years. Told through first-hand accounts and supported by artifacts and multimedia presentations, the exhibit presents rich stories of hardship and success. Included in the exhibit are:

  • Uniforms, weapons and photos from Hmong soldiers in Laos
  • A rifle given as a gift from General Vang Pao to President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968
  • Textiles, pots and pans used in refugee camps
  • Photos of first Hmong families to settle in Minnesota
  • Social service organizations credited with drawing Hmong to Minnesota
  • Religious ritual objects including cymbals, drums and other musical instruments
  • Traditional Hmong clothing, jewelry, textiles and art
  • Hmong farming, food and cooking methods
  • Photos and contributions from noteworthy Hmong artists, politicians and others

The Minnesota Historical Society is a non-profit educational and cultural institution established in 1849. MNHS collects, preserves and tells the story of Minnesota's past through museum exhibits, libraries and collections, historic sites, educational programs and book publishing. Using the power of history to transform lives, MNHS preserves our past, shares our state’s stories and connects people with history.

The Minnesota Historical Society is supported in part by its Premier Partners: Xcel Energy and Explore Minnesota Tourism.