Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of History

Committee Chair

Michael Mayer

Commitee Members

Harry Fritz, Steve Levine


Culture and Adaptation to America, Culture and religion, Culture and Vocational Success, Immigration


University of Montana


Keightley, David, M.A., May 2010 History A New Life in Montana: The Laotian Hmong – Their History, Culture and American Journey Chairperson: Michael Mayer Following the end of the Vietnam War, hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian refugees fled their homelands for America, where they started their lives over again. This paper examines the immigration of Hmong hill-tribesmen from Laos to the United States and their adjustment to a new life in America, particularly in the small community of Missoula Montana. How did they acculturate to such a very different environment from what they had known in Laos, and how successful have they been in America up to this time? The Hmong were among the most recent émigrés to America’s shores, and though their experience was unique, it was not wholly without parallel. The experiences of millions of Eastern and Southern Europeans, the so called “the new immigrants,” around the turn of the twentieth century, throw light on what Hmong immigrants may be going through now. The paper traces Hmong history from ancient times in China, up through their migration into Vietnam and Laos and their involvement in the Vietnam War as American allies. Based on interviews with first, middle and second generation Hmong in Missoula, on interviews with Americans who worked with the Hmong in Montana, on local newspaper accounts, and high school and college records, the paper argues that the Hmong in Missoula have successfully adapted to living in Montana. They have done well in school, established themselves economically, and adjusted to life in the United States. Cultural attributes have helped them to survive and succeed in a place very different from their homeland. The influence of culture on educational, vocational and economic mobility has been noted by other historians. This paper agrees with historical studies that suggest a link between culture and immigrants’ strategies for success in America.



© Copyright 2010 David A. Keightley