Treasure Trove

Yesterday was a very fun day, I hit a treasure trove of new materials for new flags. I already found a couple of great pieces for a Bali flag from Foreign Cargo in Kent, Connecticut so I thought I would go in and see if I could pull together the last pieces of the puzzle for that flag so I can finish it. The reason I am so excited about these new finds it because E Pluribus will be exhibited at the Wang Asian Art Center of Stony Brook University on Long Island this fall. I am delighted to have more Asian flags to include in the show. I had red and blue for the Bali flag but no white Ikat fabric. I found a great pink ikat instead; why the white is so hard to find I don’t know but I love the pink so here we go.

Then poking around some more in the fabulous collection of tribal imports that Jeff Kennedy brings back from the far east I discovered some great pieces from Vietnam and Thailand. I bought a pair of pants that Jeff had bought right off a Mien woman in the mountains Thailand. To go with the pants which will represent the stripe field of the flag I bought two headdresses with an assortment of stars already embroidered on them. The other find is cloth made from hemp by Hmong people to which I will add an embroidered panel made for a pillow case as the star field. My query becomes whether to call these flags by the name of the tribal people the materials represent or whether to name by the borders we recognize today: Vietnam, Thailand, Laos. I am inclined to honor the tribal names because these are people who cross borders and yet still hold an allegiance to their cultural roots no matter where they end up. In fact on wikipedia I discovered the American connection to the Mien and the Hmong people included here:

Most Mien Americans arrived in Laos from Southern China during the late 1800s. Reasons for this migration remain controversial, varying from political to socio-economic ventures. Many Mien American elders fought alongside the United States CIA during the “Secret War” of Laos in an effort to block weapon trails to Vietnam. When the American operation pulled out in 1975, hundreds of families were forced to seek refuge in the neighboring country of Thailand. Hundreds died during this heart-breaking journey on foot through the deep jungles of Southeast Asia. In the next few years, thousands settled in Thailand refugee camps awaiting uncertain fate. Through programs from the United Nations, roughly 60,000 were sponsored to western countries such as the United States.

Mien Women in traditional dress
Mien Women in traditional dress
Approximately 50,000 Mien settled along the western coast of the U.S. in states of Washington, Oregon and California. Approximately 10,000 settled in other parts of the country, in states of Alabama, Tennessee, Michigan, Illinois and other states. This ethnicity group has yet to be included in the United States Census and consequently, current population numbers have been skewed anywhere from 50,000 to 150,000. Since resettlement in America, historical contacts have been and continue to be made, between Mien Americans and Mien in China and Vietnam. Many Mien American relatives still remain in the countries of Laos and Thailand.

As a people from ancient, isolated farming societies, first Mien American generations struggled through obstacles of language, acculturation and more as they resettled in bustling, modern cities. As younger generations Americanize, they face generational gaps, loss of language, loss of culture, lack of identity and more. Community-based organizations formed among communities in Washington, Oregon and California to provide direct services, catering to resettlement issues.

They celebrated their 31st anniversary in Sacramento, California, on July 7, 2007. Achievement awards were given to Mien American doctors, lawyers, educators, scholars, leaders, and others.

There is a large population of Mien Americans that have settled in the city of Sacramento.

Hmong Women in Traditional Dress
Hmong Women in Traditional Dress
The Hmong (pronounced [m̥ɔ̃ŋ]), are an Asian ethnic group from the mountainous regions of China, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand. Hmong are also one of the sub-groups of the Miao ethnicity (苗族) in southern China. Hmong groups began a gradual southward migration in the 18th century due to political unrest and to find more arable land.
A number of Hmong people fought against the communist-nationalist Pathet Lao during the Secret War in Laos. Hmong people were singled out for retribution when the Pathet Lao took over the Laotian government in 1975, and tens of thousands fled to Thailand seeking political asylum. Thousands of these refugees have resettled in Western countries since the late 1970s, mostly the United States but also Australia, France, French Guiana, and Canada. Others have been returned to Laos under United Nations-sponsored repatriation programs. Around 8,000 Hmong refugees remain in Thailand.