WISCONSIN HISTORICAL SOCIETY

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New Exhibit: Hmong in Wisconsin

Hmong in Wisconsin Exhibit

March 24, 2020 – January 2, 2021

The Hmong came to the United States as refugees starting in the 1970s and 1980s. Some of these families found homes in Wisconsin, which now has the third-largest Hmong population in the country. As one of the most recent cultural groups to arrive in the Badger State, the Hmong have worked hard to establish a new life here, preserving traditions as they enrolled in schools and started businesses. In conjunction with the new Wisconsin Historical Society Press book of the same name, this exhibit shares how the Hmong people have become an important part of Wisconsin communities.

Story cloth depicting the trip from Laos to Madison, made by Youa Lor, Madison, Wisconsin, 1995 Museum object 2017.32.2

Exhibit Highlights

Kashoua Kristy Yang

Elected to Milwaukee County Circuit Court in 2017, Kashoua Kristy Yang became the nation’s first Hmong American female judge. Courtesy of Kashoua Yang

Kashoua Kristy Yang became the nation’s first Hmong-American female judge

Story Cloth

Story cloth depicting the Secret War in Laos and the Hmong escape across the Mekong River, made by Ge Yang. WHS MUSEUM 2017.32.2

Story cloth depicting the trip from Laos to Madison, made by Youa Lor

Miss Hmong Madison

Diane Vang (center) is crowned Miss Hmong Madison 2013 at the Hmong New Year celebration, Madison, Wisconsin, 2012. Courtesy of Mai Zong Vue

Diane Vang (center) is crowned Miss Hmong Madison 2013 at the Hmong New Year celebration

Paj Ntaub

Paj Ntaub featuring a reverse applique elephant foot pattern, ca. 1979. WHS MUSEUM 1996.118.1

Hmon Paj Ntaub Elephant Foot Pattern

Phongsavan Market

Pai Yang founded Phongsavan Market in 2009 to feature Hmong and other Asian foods and products. Courtesy of Mai Zong Vue

Phongsavan Market in Milwaukee

Baby Carrier

Baby carrier made by Mai Lee, Madison, Wisconsin, ca. 1986. The center panel and parts of the border are made of batik-dyed cloth. WHS MUSEUM 1996.118.3

Hmong Batik Baby Carrier

Dance Team

Dance team participating in the Hmong National Memorial Day Festival, Winnebago County Community Park, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, 2017. Courtesy of Mai Zong Vue

Dance team participating in the Hmong National Memorial Day Festival

Nplias Yaj

Nplias Yaj, a farmer, sells vegetables at the Eau Claire Downtown Farmers Market in 2010.
Courtesy of Houa Moua

Nplias Yaj, a farmer, sells vegetables at the Eau Claire Downtown Farmers Market

Khoua Vang Teaching

Khoua Vang teaches the Hmong language to students at the Eau Claire Area Hmong Mutual Assistance Association in 2018. Eau Claire Leader-Telegram

Khoua teaching some students

Ka Yeng Vue

Ka Yeng Vue became the first Hmong American conservation warden at the Wisconsin DNR. Photo by Paul A. Smith, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

In 2015, Ka Yeng Vue of Green Bay became the first Hmong-American conservation warden hired by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Photo by Paul A. Smith, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

NEW Wisconsin Historical Society Press Book:
"Hmong in Wisconsin"

Hmong in Wisconsin by Mai Zong Vue

Summary:

Unknown to many Americans at the time, the Hmong helped the US government fight Communists in Laos during the Secret War of the 1960s and 1970s, a parallel conflict to the Vietnam War. When Saigon fell and allies withdrew, the surviving Hmong fled for their lives, spending years in Thai refugee camps before being relocated to the United States and other countries.

Many of these families found homes in Wisconsin, which now has the third-largest Hmong population in the country, following California and Minnesota. As one of the most recent cultural groups to arrive in the Badger State, the Hmong have worked hard to establish a new life here, building support systems to preserve traditions and to help one another as they enrolled in schools, started businesses, and strived for independence.

Told with a mixture of scholarly research, interviews, and personal experience of the author, this latest addition to the popular People of Wisconsin series shares the Hmong’s varied stories of survival and hope as they have become an important part of Wisconsin communities.

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