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History and Culture of the Khmu People

The Khmu, pronounced kəˈmu, people is a large minority ethnic groups that is spread across the central highlands of Asia including sections of Northern and Central Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar (formerly Burma) and Southwestern China. Throughout their range, they are recognized as a separate ethnic group with the exception of those living in China where they fall under the official designation of undistinguished ethnic peoples (rough translation from Chinese). They are known by various names including Khamu, Kemu, Khammu or Khơ Mú depending on the specific area where they live but as would be expected, share a common language with only slight variations in dialects being noted and generally recognizable customs across the entire region. Khmu Population Distribution As can...

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Preserving Laotian Culture, Empowering Women and Building Bridges of Hope

As most of us move through our daily lives; talking on our cell phones, driving around town, buying groceries in supermarkets and living in heated and air-conditioned comfort, it is easy for us to forget that there is an entire world of people out there that have little to no idea what many of these experiences are like. In the landlocked, Southeast Asian country of Laos, there are many people who would fall into this category. For the most part isolated from the rest of the world by the rugged mountain forest terrain that makes up their home, they still live life much as their ancestors have for the last 5000 years. Subsisting by growing their mountain rice sans mechanical...

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Nature Bag Sponsors Natural Dye Workshop

  The early morning Northern Laos sky was a brilliant blue as an European, an American and 10 Laotians gathered on a point of land at the base of the massive Kuang Si waterfall for a workshop on using nearby forest products to add color to Earth’s Greenest Bag™. After exchanging greetings and sharing fresh organic coffee grown 500 km south in the landlocked Southeast Asian nation, the group moved into the surrounding jungle to find the bark of a special tree that would be the source of the color for the first natural dye.  The temperature was comfortable thanks to a thunderstorm an hour earlier.  The smell was sweet from a multitude of Laotian jungle flowers. As the roar...

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Nature Bag Crafter's New Experiences with Natural Colors

  The Netherlands Senior Expert Ineke Poort-Van Eljk, Bag Crafter Pa Sa, Consultant/Volunteer Vandara, Bag Crafter Som confer before a workshop session.   For Nature Bag crafters Pa Sa and Som, the 5 day trip to learn about using natural colors in the stain-resistant JungleVine® fiber of their bags was a major life experience.  Although the journey from their rural villages to near UNESCO World Heritage Luang Prabang took only a day, neither had ever been so far away from home or away from home for so long. Pa Sa had traveled 80 km (64 mile) to a Khmu village near her provincial capital of Oudomxai 6 years ago to be a bag crafting trainer for a United Nations Industrial...

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