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Southeast Asia forum

Hilltribes?

Posted by MADMAC on 17/10/2009 at 21:05

Why is it that whenever anyone talks about ethnic groups outside the main they are always referred to as "hilltribes"? Even when they don't reside on hills?

I never liked the word tribe as a descriptor for ethnic groups anyway. Nobody calls the Serbs a "Tribe", they're an ethnic group.

Don't we have any "Plains Tribes" in SEA?

#1 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by somsai on 17/10/2009 at 21:50

Generally the ones called "hilltribes" do reside on hills. I like the Lao term "Lao Sung" and "Lao Thueng" better, as it calls them all "Lao" implying citizenship and inclusion in the nation.

Lao Sung are the Hmong, Akha, Lahu, Yao, etc who usually live above roughly 1000 meters, whereas the Thueng are the not Lao speaking but live at lower elevation types. Mostly Kahmu.

The Lao Loum include not only lowland Lao speakers but ethnicaly similar Thai Dam, Thai Daeng, Lu who speak similar languages. Lots of Lao Loum women do wear some sort of definitive hats or dress.

The word "tribal" does come with lots of baggage but I ignore it and kind of go with the flow. Lso Sung who still live in thier villages are much more closely tied to village and kinship than Lowland Lao as a whole. A lowlander could move about the country and still feel relatively at home. An uplander can feel uprooted outside of his own village.

Don't know of many plains in SEAsia, flood plains yes but wooded not naturaly treeless. Plain of Jars maybe, but then there are also rolling hills and they are at elevation.

Go ahead and say Lao Sung and Lao Thueng, I'll know what you mean. You can call the Isaan uprooted Lao Loum.

#2 somsai has been a member since 1/3/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 568


Posted by MADMAC on 18/10/2009 at 01:30

Somsai
Are the Laotian ethnic groups beginning to assimilate into the Lao mainstream, or are they still trying to maintain separate identities?

#3 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957


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