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Preserving Heritage - Hmong New Year
UMD student Ryan Ueki and members of HLUB celebrate Hmong culture with the Duluth community.
Minnesota has the country’s second largest Hmong population and the Hmong New Year celebration is always an important event. Back in Laos, the celebration lasts a whole month at the end of the harvest season. In Duluth, the New Year celebration usually takes place during the first weekend of December, and UMD gets involved.
Students Join In
Hmong Living Unity and Balance (HLUB) is the UMD student club that works with Hmong community to prepare the event, which was held on Dec 2, 2017. “We had Hmong performers and volunteers who supported the event.” says Ryan Ueki, the club’s first-year student representative.
Ryan is a computer science student who has Japanese ancestry. “I joined HLUB because I have so many Hmong friends who have shared their culture with me,” he says. “We discuss Hmong history and traditions.”
HLUB formed in 2014, their mission is to preserve the Hmong tradition and history, raise awareness about Hmong culture, and be a support system for Hmong students at UMD.
Mailee Vue, coordinator of the UMD pre-collegiate and ambassador program, has attended the event for years. “Ever since I worked in Duluth, Hmong family leaders in the community have organized a celebration in cooperation with UMD student clubs, the Office of Diversity & Inclusion, and the First United Methodist Church,” she says.
“There are about 18 Hmong families in the Twin ports area. It is an opportunity for students to connect with the Hmong Duluth community, and it also allows the larger Duluth community to learn more about the Hmong culture."
Ryan and his family came to the U.S. from Japan when he was nine-years old. “I’ve always paid attention to the differences between those two cultures,” he says.
He now loves to travel and explore diverse traditions. “I go back to Japan every summer by myself,” he says. “I practice my Japanese and trace the history there. All those experiences help me become more open. I enjoy HLUB and hope more and more students come to join us and interact with different cultures.”
HLUB not only gets involved in the Hmong New Year event, they have other events during the year. “We held 'Seas of the Night,' our first-time dance party on a Duluth cruise boat in October,” says Ryan. “It was a highlight. Everyone enjoyed the party and had a very good time.”
In April 2018, the group will hold a Hmong heritage event. “We will prepare traditional foods and hold a performance in the Kirby Ballroom,” Ryan says. “We are expecting it to be the largest event for our club this year, and everyone is invited.”