U.S. Department of Agriculture: Forest Service -- National Agroforestry Center


Date of this Version



Published in Weber, Samantha, and David Harmon, eds. 2008


Natural resource managers and policy-makers need to understand the cultures and perspectives of ethnic minority communities in order to serve them effectively. In this exploratory study, we focus on Hmong Americans, perhaps the least-studied and -understood Asian ethnic group in the United States. The Hmong, who lived in the mountains of Laos,were relatively isolated until they were secretly recruited and armed by the United States Central Intelligence Agency in the early 1960s to fight the communist Pathet Lao and their North Vietnamese allies (Warner 1998). When the Americans abruptly withdrew from Vietnam and Laos and the pro-American Royal Laotian government collapsed in 1975, the Hmong fled persecution and annihilation from the new communist regime. Laotian Hmong refugees came to the United States in the years following the war in Vietnam and Laos. The number of Hmong refugees grew rapidly in the late 1970s and reached a peak of about 27,000 admitted to the United States in 1980. The Hmong are now the third-largest Southeast Asian group in the U.S. after Vietnamese and Cambodian, with the largest Hmong populations in California (65,095), Minnesota (41,800) and Wisconsin (33,791) (HNDI and HCRC 2004). All other states have a combined total of only 28,742 Hmong.