Cultural Heritage of the Lost Kingdom
in the United States: The History of Laotian People in America
Washington D.C. USA
People from Asia and the Pacific region came to the United States at different
times, by different routes, and for different reasons. But beyond these
differences, immigrants and refugees alike share the same experiences of
hardship and find great reward in their move to a new land. This is certainly
true of the Laotian people who have relocated to America for the past 30 years.
"Cultural Heritage of the Lost Kingdom and the United States," is an overview of the Lao-American history. To better understand whom the Lao people are we need to explore from where their ancestors came? What happened to their society before they reached the shores of the United States of America? And how the Lao people assimilated into the American society today. To comprehend the answers to these questions, it is very crucial that their social, cultural and political history be broken down into seven periods.
1. The migration from southern China
2. The establishment of Lan Xang Kingdom
3. The Siam annexation (1778-1893)
4. The French colonization (1893-1954)
5. The Last Kingdom of the Lao People (1954-1975)
6. The Darkest Page in Lao History, 1975
7. The establishment of the Lao-American community in the U.S. (1953 to present)
Until the twenty-first century, Laos had been numbered among the undeveloped countries of the world. Democracy and sovereignty have remained in their infancy. In schools and society as a whole, the arts, music, literature and humanities curricula had not been well developed. Even today, the Lao people at home and abroad continue to emphasize their history in ceremonies, rituals, music, dance, cuisine and the other forms of culture rather than researching and documenting these aspects of the Laotian cultural heritage. This practice has created frustration in the new generations of Laotians who want to understand the history of their ancestors.
Beyond the references, parts of the information contained in this paper have been selected from my previous research projects. Over one hundred Lao-American community members across the country were interviewed. Since then, many of them are now deceased and only their voices and photographs are left behind. The memories of my childhood experiences in the Kingdom of Laos, as a foreign student in the United States who witnessed the anti-Indochina War efforts, as a refugee resettlement officer, as a Lao cultural presenter, as an artist and a Lao Cultural Consultant to the Smithsonian Institution, and other academic institutions also provide substantial information.