About the Organization
Hmong American Association of Oklahoma, Inc., (HMAAO) is a 501(c) 3 non-profit, tax exempt corporation founded in 1979. The organization serves the needs of the Hmong community in the State of Oklahoma, with a primary focus on the large communities in and around Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Since its founding in 1979, the HMAAO has been able to meet the needs of the Hmong people through financial support from yearly dues, benefactor donations, and fund raising events– all supplemented by the dedication and commitment of a core group of volunteers. These volunteers provide the type of training, education, skills, and services needed by many community members experiencing immigration issues such as requiring English translation support, job interview preparation, legal referrals if needed, and other training. HMAAO is at the center of Hmong cultural activities, social events, and community interaction. HMAAO provides group and social activities for Hmong youth. HMAAO also sponsors outings and cultural events that focus on what “being Hmong” means and how Hmong culture has impacted and enriched American life.
HMAAO’s Mission Statement: 1) preserve and maintain the Hmong history, culture, and language; 2) promote higher education; 3) provide social services such as translation, ESL classes, counseling, youth programs, and more; 4) advocate for equal rights, economic prosperity, social progress, and higher education for Hmong individuals while building strong relationships with the greater Tulsa community through consensus and cooperation.
Background of Hmong People
The Hmong are an ethnic group with a rich history going back several millennia to ancient China. As China grew and developed the Hmong were further displaced south. Eventually, the Hmong migrated to Indochina into countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos.
The Hmong are a blue-collar people with strong agricultural roots. Most of the Hmong in America made their homes in the mountains of Laos. Content with their farms and fields, the Hmong lived in relative peace. In the 1950’s, after the Korean War, the Cold War theater shifted to Indochina, engulfing all of Laos and Vietnam. By the early 1970’s, American forces were on the ground in Vietnam. However, due to earlier peace treaties by all parties that Laos would remain a neutral country, America could not legally enter Laos. Unfortunately, the communist North Vietnamese did not adhere to the earlier treaties. As communist forces and supplies flowed freely along the Ho Chi Minh trail, it was apparent that America needed an ally. The CIA was instructed to recruit and train an indigenous army in Laos. The Hmong became that army. The Hmong were entrusted to accomplish three main tasks: 1) fight communist regular forces in the northern Laos with an irregular militia; 2) cut the Vietcong supply lines along the Ho Chi Minh Trail; and 3) rescue any downed American pilots shot down over Laos.
The Hmong fought bravely and earned the respect of the American servicemen who were in Laos for “the Secret War.” Unfortunately, in 1975, American policy on the war shifted and all American forces were pulled out of Vietnam and Laos. The Hmong who were left behind faced certain death for their loyalty to America. Hundreds of thousands made the dangerous trek out of Laos to Thailand. Untold numbers were killed or drowned in the Mekong River during the perilous crossing. For their service thousands of former Hmong servicemen and their families were relocated from the refugee camps in Thailand to America and other friendly nations such as Canada, France, and Australia.
Today the Hmong are scattered throughout the United States of America. The largest populations of Hmong Americans can be found in California, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. In the mid-1970s, the Hmong began arriving in Oklahoma. The majority live in Tulsa and the greater Tulsa area, including Owasso, Broken Arrow, Collinsville, Claremore and more. Currently, there are approximately four thousand (5,000) people living in the Greater Area of Tulsa.
Copyright © 2010, Hmong American Association of Oklahoma, Inc. All rights reserved.