We Are Hmong Minnesota: TIMELINE

For immediate release

Release dated: 
December 8, 2014
Media contacts: 

Jessica Kohen, Marketing and Communications, 651-259-3148, jessica.kohen@mnhs.org
​Wameng Moua, Hmong Today, 651-491-5946, hmong40@gmail.com

We Are Hmong Minnesota: TIMELINE

“We Are Hmong Minnesota,” March 7-Jan. 3, 2016, at the Minnesota History Center.

A timeline history of the Hmong people.

  • 4,000-3,000 BCE The origin of the Hmong is still being debated. Archaeologists and linguists suggest that Hmong history dates to as early as 5,000 BCE in central China.

  • 5,000 - 2,700 BCE Highly independent and industrious, the Hmong innovate methods of agriculture that continue today, including rice cultivation. The Hmong are distinguished by language, religion and their unique art form, a highly intricate hand-stitching process called “paj ntaub,” or “flower cloth.”

  • Early 1800s Centuries of war with the Chinese cause the Hmong to migrate to Southeast Asia, particularly to the highlands of northern Laos, Burma, Thailand and Vietnam.

  • 1887, 1893 France establishes a colonial stronghold in Southeast Asia by forming French Indochina, which includes most of modern day Vietnam and Cambodia. Laos is added in 1893 after the Franco-Siamese War.

  • Early 1900s The Hmong start to integrate into Lao mainstream society.

  • 1940 After the death of prominent Hmong leader Lor Bliayao, his nephew Touby Ly Foung becomes the first politician to successfully represent Hmong people in the Lao government. He leads a Hmong militia that includes the young future general Vang Pao against Japanese occupiers.

  • 1946-54 During the first Indochina War, the Hmong assist the French in fighting against the Japanese and later the Communist North Vietnam Army.

  • 1947 The Hmong are officially recognized as citizens of Laos.

  • Late 1950s In the second Indochina War, the United States backs the South Vietnam government in opposition to the North Vietnamese Army. This is known as the Vietnam War in the United States.

  • 1959 President Dwight Eisenhower emphasizes the threat and spread of Communism into Southeast Asia, with Laos being pivotal to what he calls the “Domino Theory.”

  • 1961 U.S. Army Special Forces, known as the Green Berets, and the Central Intelligence Agency recruit and train Hmong to fight and protect America’s interests inside Laos.

  • 1961-1973 General Vang Pao along with CIA agents lead Hmong soldiers into battles against the Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese Army in what is known as the Secret War in Laos, a part of the Vietnam War. After the war’s end Vang Pao would be credited with brokering the resettlement of tens of thousands of Hmong in the United States.

  • 1963 With U.S. funds, many schools are established throughout the remote regions of Laos, making education more accessible. Some Hmong girls are trained as nurses to help care for the many wounded soldiers.

  • 1965 The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 abolishes the national origins quota system replacing it with a preference system that focuses on immigrants' skills and family relationships with citizens or U.S. residents.
  • July 11, 1969 Legendary Hmong pilot Lue Lee, who flew 5,000 missions--more than anyone else during the war is shot down in Mouang Soui.

  • Sept. 14, 1973 A cease-fire and political peace treaty is signed, known as the Vientiane Agreement, giving the Pathet Lao majority control of the Lao Government. The United States and all foreign powers are forced to withdraw from Laos.

  • 1973 More than 120,000 Hmong are displaced from their villages, forcing them to relocate to refugee centers established by the United States throughout Laos.

  • 1975 By the war’s end, an estimated 35,000 Hmong soldiers have been killed in combat, thousands wounded, and as many as 3,000 remain missing in action.

  • 1975 After the fall of Laos to Communist forces, Hmong are forced to flee into neighboring Thailand, where they lived in refugee camps, some of them for many years.

  • November 1975 The first Hmong arrive in the United States, including Dang Her and his family, who settle in Minnesota. This first wave are mainly soldiers and workers associated with the U.S. Secret War effort in Laos.

  • 1980 The 1980 Refugee Act standardized resettlement services for all refugees, allowing for the families of the Secret Army to immigrate to the United States.

  • 1980 The peak year of Hmong resettlement, with 27,242 arriving in the United States. Several non-profit organizations are established to help the refugees adjust to their new life in the United States.

  • 1986 More than 90% of Hmong refugees in Thailand are accepted for passage to the United States because of their help in the war. Many of the remaining Hmong are repatriated to Laos.

  • 1990s Many Hmong who had settled in the western United States relocate to the Midwest due to a cheaper cost of living, better educational opportunities, stronger social services and family unification.

  • 1991 Choua Lee is elected to the St. Paul School Board, the first Hmong elected official in the United States.

  • 2002 In January, Mee Moua is elected to the Minnesota State Senate, the first Hmong elected to serve in a state legislature. In November, Cy Thao is elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives.

  • 2004 5,000 of the 15,000 Hmong refugees from the Buddhist monastery Wat Tham Krabok, Thailand, resettle in Minnesota, making this the last wave of Hmong immigrants coming to the United States.

  • 2014 About half of all Hmong in the United States live in the Midwest, mostly in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.