Constructing a Pan-Lue World—Community
and Ethnicity among Lao Immigrants in Seattle
Shih-chung Hsieh, Ph.D.
Department of Anthropology
National Taiwan University
The main Tai-speaking peoples distributed in Luang Namtha Province, Laos are Tai-Lue, Tai-Nuea, Tai-Dam, Tai-Daeng, Kalom and so on. Most of refugees escaped from northern Laos to Thailand, then moved to western countries such as US and France are members of those non-Lao Tai-speaking Laotians. At present there are around 100 Lue families in Seattle area of Washington State in US. They founded a Lao-Lue Association in 1979, four years after the first Lue had settled down there. In 1997, the Lue immigrants in Seattle bought a suburban land, and established a Buddhist temple named Wat Buddharam. They went to Lao temple usually before the Lue temple had been built up. The appearance of Lue temple symbolizes the success of practice of ethnicity. This particular group of people have re-planted “traditional” life out of homeland. One may feel a cultural atmosphere of northern Laos in the sphere of Lue temple and activities initiated by the Association. However the Lue organization and people’s grouping are definitely beyond “pure” ethnic identity, i.e., almost all non-Lao Laotians originated from northern muangs join the Association entitled by ethnonym Lue. In this paper I am going to argue that Lue as a symbol of integrating northerners has become one of the major identities deposited in individual’s inventory of ethnicities among most of Luang Lamthalites in Seattle. There is a pan-Lue world in northwest coast of North America that evidently distinguished from the majority Lao in most arena of daily lives.