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Saving fading ethnic minority traditions

Update: February, 11/2015 - 08:35
Keeping culture: A teacher at Seo Hai School in Lai Chau Province guides her students from the Si La ethnic group during a language lesson. — VNA/VNS Photo Quy Trung

HA NOI (VNS) — A recent workshop held in Ha Noi discussed how to preserve traditional identities for five ethnic groups with fewer than 1,000 people each.

The workshop gathered elders and heads of the Si La, Pu Peo, Brau, Ro Mam and O Du ethnic groups from northern provinces of Dien Bien, Lai Chau, Ha Giang, central province of Nghe An and Central Highlands province of Kon Tum as well as researchers and leaders from the cultural sector.

Hoang Duc Hau, head of the Ethnic Culture Department under the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Sports, said that the ethnic groups were on the verge of losing their identities as they had few ways of preserving their traditions. That's why the issue should be treated as an emergency, he said.

According to Po Cha Nga, a representative from the Si La group, young people in his community no longer speak and sing in their mother tongue.

"Children don't like Si La folk songs and no longer perform Si La dances," he said.

Lo Van Thai, head of Vang Mon Village in Nghe An's Tuong Duong Commune, said that his O Du group now totalled only 400 people, who mostly lived in poverty. Many young people graduating from colleges and vocational schools could not find jobs.

"I hope the State will take more care of preserving and developing the O Du language, printing more books in the language to teach youth," he said.

"We hope to recover traditional festivals such as the crop celebrations and ceremonies for new houses".

Researcher Le Ngoc Thang said that the smaller population, the bigger the danger of it fading.

"We should encourage ethnic groups with small populations to have more children and avoid close-blood marriages to enhance the population's quality," he said.

However, the State should subsidise them more in daily life if they have more children, he said.

Researcher Vuong Xuan Tinh, director of Ethnology Institute, said it was necessary to do serious research on ethnic heritage to define priority of preservation for spoken and written languages, folk songs, folk dances, costumes and spiritual beliefs.

Deputy Culture Minister Ho Anh Tuan promised to consider all opinions and decide what to do later this year.

He also noted that the most important role in developing group culture is the very local communities.

"No one can replace family in teaching children," Hau shared the same idea.

"The communities should combine the roles of family and society in educating children." — VNS

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