thumbnail of The Split Horn: Life of a Hmong Shaman in America
Transcript
Hide -
This transcript was received from a third party and/or generated by a computer. Its accuracy has not been verified. If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+.
is You You You
You The God You
Mom says in America nothing stays the same for very long. When she was my age, she never could have imagined the world I've grown up in. Mom was born far away in a small village in Southeast Asia. Mom was born far away in a small village in Southeast Asia. Mom was born far away in a small village in Southeast Asia.
Mom was born far away in a small village in Southeast Asia. Mom was born far away in a small village in Southeast Asia. Mom was born far away in a small village in Southeast Asia. Dad is scared that the way of the shaman may not survive in America. Dad is scared that the way of the shaman may not survive in America. He is fighting to keep it alive. Dad is hanging on as best as he can.
I don't know what's going to happen to our culture in America. Dad is out almost every weekend helping old and young people, a cousin, Mr. Wang, asked Dad to do a ceremony for his health so he can have more kids. Mr. Wang said an evil spirit took his soul. He wants Dad to bring his soul back. Wang believed a person has seven souls. When Dad shakes, he's following the soul to the sky, following the path of the sick one.
Dad catches the soul and the sick one will feel better. A long time ago, before I was born, my family lived way up in the mountains of Laos, in Southeast Asia. In the small village, everyone came to Dad. He was a powerful healer. Our ancestors' spirits chose Dad to become a shaman. The spirits made him sick. Then he knew he must become a shaman. He kept the spirit world in balance. Mom said, without the shaman, Monk people would get sick and die. Monk has always fought to be free, to live way up in the mountains,
and to keep Monk tradition alive. Then, the Vietnam War changed everything. Mom and Dad's village was destroyed. They had to leave the homeland forever. They ran into the jungle. With six kids, they could only take what they could carry. Weeks later, they made it to a refugee camp in Thailand. They lived there for eight years. With no country and no home, they didn't know what was next. In 1984, a cousin sponsored Mom and Dad to come to America.
They were so lost in Chicago, thousands of miles away from home. The flat Midwest was nothing like the mountains of Laos. The land was so big that it was so big that it was so big. The land was so big that it was so big that it was so big. I was so happy to see them. You know how to spell sheep? Suddenly, Dad went from being a monk leader to being an elementary student. In Laos, Dad never needed to read or write. Can I smoke?
Can I smoke? Here's a smoke. Mom and Dad didn't know if they were even allowed to practice their religion in this country. Hello, how are you all today? Missionaries kept coming to talk about Christianity. Bye, Dad. There you go. You want some candy? No candy today. Because we have done things wrong, then we deserve to die and go to hell. Because we have done things wrong. We have done things wrong. We have done things wrong. We have done things wrong. We have done things wrong. We have done things wrong. We have done things wrong.
And it says that Jesus died for our sins. His, ours, everybody. After the missionaries left, Dad was so anxious to make contact with our ancestor's spirits. He was worried that the spirits didn't follow him to America. Without his spirit helpers, Dad couldn't do his healing rituals. In his first ceremony in America, Dad was in transfer two hours. Finally, he made contact with our ancestor's spirits. I'm in sixth grade.
I love school. I feel good that my dad's a shaman. It makes you feel like everybody's trying to respect you more. My brother, Barthony and I are best buddies. We're the youngest of 13 children. Most of my brothers and sisters have left home. Most weekends, Dad's doing a ceremony. But today, we get to go to the county fair. All Hmong ever care about his family.
There we go. They had just got a call from the hospital. Uncle Por had a stroke. They found him collapsed in the basement. They think Uncle Por is dying. Dad doesn't like hospitals. It's hard for him to heal there. It's not a good place for the spirits. Dad checks Uncle Por's pulse and then checks his nose to see if it is broken.
Dad says if the nose is broken, the person will die soon. There's nothing anyone can do to save Uncle Por. We decide to let Uncle Por go. Dad can only comfort Uncle Por and promise that they will send his souls to the ancestors.
Uncle Por was very traditional. So we know we have to give him a traditional funeral. In Laos, the whole village would help out. But in America, it's difficult to get off of work and relative to all over the country. The last four days and nights, the women spend hours sewing the burial coat. The men make a crossbow in a miniature stretcher for Uncle Por's ceremony.
The men make a crossbow in a miniature stretcher for Uncle Por. Our relatives dress Uncle Por in a special outfit that he will wear to meet the ancestors. Our relatives come from all over the country for Uncle Por's funeral. Uncle Por needs a lot of help to get to the ancestors.
Everybody works together for four days and three nights. We work together for four days and three nights. Dad feeds Uncle Por rice and meat so he won't get hungry on his long journey. We work together for four days and three nights. We work together for four days and three nights.
We work together for four days and three nights. My cousin, Ashaman, blows through the wing of a chicken. We work together for four days and three nights. We work together for four days and three nights. Mom tells me if we don't do everything correctly, then Uncle Por's soul will come back to haunt us.
The King player plays the bamboo flute that leads Uncle Por's soul along the path. On the third day, we succeeded in sending Uncle Por's soul to our ancestors. On the third day, we succeeded in sending Uncle Por's soul to our ancestors.
They break a miniature stretcher so that spirits can't come back from the afterlife. They break a miniature stretcher so that spirits can't come back from the afterlife. They break a miniature stretcher so that spirits can't come back from the afterlife.
I'm Zoo. I'm the oldest son that lives at home right now to my dad, Pajatao, and I'm still attending high school. I'm Amber. I'm 16 years old. I'm Sue's girlfriend. We've been dating for about a year now and we met at the bowling alley. Me and Barthony love having Amber around. But it's very rare for a monk to be dating someone who's not mom. What's going on with the T.O. Show? Oh, it starts in 6th, 6th, 8th, 6th, 7th. Oh, I need 7, yeah.
My parents, especially my mom, was against my friends in Amber. They wanted me to follow tradition, like date, Asians, have kids with Asians. So my culture and my religion were not supposed to date out of our race. We're supposed to marry Caucasian. My grandparents, I know, feel strong about that. My parents talked about marriage a few times. I should be looking for a wife and stuff like that and I just thought it was too early and I didn't think anything of it. After school, Amber and Barthony have been dating for about a year now. After school, Amber and Barthony have been dating for about a year.
After school, Amber and Zoo work in a pizza parlour. I don't really participate in our ceremonies. I mean, the fact is I have school, I have jobs and then I also have to keep a social life. I just don't have time to sit around all day. I just don't have time to sit around all day. I just don't have time to sit around all day. Dad's worried our family is breaking apart. They were going our separate ways.
My older sister Joa was kidnapped by a boy from Fresno. I came very fast and I was quick up mad and he picked up a shoe and got out and started hitting that guy. I said, I'll call the police and my mom said, no, wait until they're there for real. In Monk tradition, if a boy wants to marry, he can naps his bride. Joa married the boy who kidnapped her, then they moved all the way to North Carolina.
Soon after, my other sister, Kia, who was only 14, he'd looked in the middle of the night. I didn't really ask my father if I was going to get married or not. I just left out the door. We ran off together. That's actually part of our culture. Ever since Kia and Joa left home, it's been pretty quiet. Now, I'm the only daughter that is not marrying. Since I'm the only daughter at home, it's Kia's home. Mom loves to dress me up.
They can point each other out. Let's go. When my sister, Kia married, she married into a Christian family. Now, I'm baptized, so I'm a Christian right now, but because mostly for our tradition, when the woman can marry, they're supposed to follow what their new family is going through.
I'm a Christian. 15 years ago, when they first arrived in America, Dad did a ceremony for my older brother's daughter. Just after that, my brother became Christian and stopped coming to Dad's ceremonies. Then, my other brother, Kuali, also broke away from tradition.
When my first wife went to church, my father was not so happy about that, and he said, oh, he's a Christian, so he's not going to help me no more. My brother, Kuali, always helped with the ceremonies when they first arrived in America 17 years ago. In Mongolia, the sons have always continued their father's tradition. When he got older, he stopped helping. When my first marriage broke up, I relocated over here in Appleton, and when I'm doing shaming or I'm preaching, or anything like that, I have a hard time switching back and forth or something like that. That's why now I'm just staying in neutral.
Dad wonders if the spirit of the shaman will go to his sons or his grandsons when he dies, like it was passed to him by his ancestors. In America, there's hardly been any new shaman. Most of the young generation, when they find out that their culture is actually very hard to follow, they start deviating to other paths. They start going towards the American path. They start learning American values. This is a new generation. If they feel hurt, they feel any pain.
The new generation, they'll take it to the hospital. They take what the doctor says, you know, like take a medicine instead of doing a ceremony with a chicken. It'll just be more convenient. I have a friend who's a shaman. He's only 12, but he's the only new shaman I know. I can see that the traditions, you know, solely drop out, especially shaman. You can't really teach that. I'm not sure exactly how you would even inherit it. I mean, I wish it could go on, but... I don't know what would happen to the Hmong spirit without the shaman. Okay.
My dad stresses to younger adult boys about keeping traditions. So La is gone way off tradition. We're kind of drifting towards the American life and my dad's just... He's pretty sad about it, but he knows that that's what happens. If you move to the United States, your kids aren't going to follow tradition as well. I can tell he's sad. His heart's sad. Dad is worried about the health of our family. He decides to do a special ceremony to see if our souls have one.
When my dad does a ceremony for our families, he heals a lot from us. It makes us feel better that he cares and he would like to help us. If you get sick, my dad will fix it and we'll make it better for you to not think that you won't die. Mong believes that the souls of animals and humans are closely connected. We thank the animal for giving the strength of its soul to the sick person. Each family member chooses a color seed to represent their soul. Dad hits the gong to encourage the seeds into the hole in the middle of the drum.
This hole represents our home. If a seed does return home, that person's soul has gone away. A lost soul makes a person sick. Everybody's seed has returned home except for dads. After 30 minutes, dad's seed finally returns home. Since it took so long for a seed to return home, dad worries he will get sick. He goes into shamanic trance to make the red contact with the spirits. Dad believes the rattles like fighting weapons. The rattles ring first and the spirits know you are coming.
For two hours, dad travels through the spirit world looking for his lost soul. When he finds his soul, he must wrestle for it with the god of death. Mong believes that if a shaman falls while in a trance, he will die. Since my brother's own help, dad had to ask his cousins to help him. We're all worried about dad. Since the seed ceremony, he has become more depressed.
Dad takes his trick at treating, but he is still worried about his soul. Dad is still worried about his soul. Dad is worried about his soul. Dad is worried about his soul. Dad is worried about his soul. Dad is worried about his soul.
Dad is worried about his soul. Dad is worried about his soul. Dad is worried about his soul. Dad is worried about his soul. Dad is worried about his soul. Dad is worried about his soul. Dad is worried about his soul. Dad is worried about his soul. Dad is worried about his soul.
Dad is worried about his soul. Dad is worried about his soul. Dad is worried about his soul. Dad is worried about his soul. Dad is worried about his soul. Hockfinn is called the American, not epic, freshman year, the great American Odyssey. It's an adventure on water. It's called the American, not epic, freshman year, the great American Odyssey.
It's called the American, not epic, freshman year, the great American Odyssey. It's called the American, not epic, freshman year, the great American Odyssey. It's called the American, not epic, freshman year, the great American Odyssey.
Then mom got really sick. She went to the hospital twice. We didn't know what was wrong with her. Because of dad's sadness and mom's sickness, dad asked our relatives for help. My great aunt, who is a shaman, offers to do a healing ceremony for them.
We waited for two months to do the healing ceremony for mom and dad. It begins tomorrow. In the morning, we go to the farm and then to aunt Vu's house. My mom is going to buy a car for her dad. My dad is going to buy a pig for her mom. It's called the American, not epic, freshman year, the great American Odyssey. It's called the American, not epic, freshman year.
It's called the American, not epic, freshman year, the great American Odyssey. Aunt Vu caused the souls of my mom and dad to come home. She scares away the evil spirit that makes them sick. It's called the American, not epic, freshman year, the great American Odyssey. My dad was feeling sorry because he felt like all his childrens that got married didn't like care for him.
My sister-in-law came from North Carolina and my sister-in-law came from Madison. I came all the way from North Carolina because I think it's special for them. It's just ceremony to make my parents happy that we're still in love. Uncle Gao feeds our ancestors to help my dad get better. Aunt Vu throws down the buffalo horns to see if mom and dad's soul has returned. When mom and dad's soul returns, all the relatives tie strings to the wrists to help secure the souls to their bodies. This will keep them healthy for a long time.
It was really emotional because he's telling us what's going on and it's just like everybody's there. The whole family's there together together and just seeing my dad talk like that. I'm just sad. I'm so sad. I'm so sad. I'm so sad. I'm so sad.
They felt a lot better knowing that their kids really do care for them and would do anything to make them feel better. I'm so sad. It's like a gathering because we don't do that often because everybody's so far apart.
I'm so sad. I'm so sad. This is our daughter Milina. Her full name is Milina Pajang Tao. Her middle name is Ma'am. It means beautiful flower among.
Everybody seems to love her. I think the family came along way and adjusted really well to her. We get a lot of help from our families. If it weren't for them, we don't know what way we would be. She's been really good today. She's good every day. Look at mommy. They help a lot while we go to school. I think they're really concerned about us finishing the school. We're lucky we have that support from both sides of the family.
Zua is dead if he would do a tradition of soul calling ceremony for his newborn baby, Milina. Since we had the healing ceremony for Dad, he has felt a lot better. He started doing shaman rituals again. Later on, my older brother Kuali, who has not helped my dad with his rituals for 10 years, also asked Dad to do naming ceremony for his baby. This is the first time he has asked my dad to do a ceremony for his family.
Dad was so happy he decided to combine the two ceremonies. We're going to call her soul or another culture we call it Hupli. We call her soul and we comfort it. We make her feel welcome. I feel that it's the right thing to do. I would hope that Milina learns among traditions and learn what shamanism is, what the purpose of it is, and why my dad does it. Hopefully she'll know the traditions, I think that's great. I think it's really important to keep cultures going. How come? No matter what religion I'm on, I still keep my father and mother in my mind that there are my father and mother.
So, whenever they need help, I can help. Always there. My father is so honorable. I'm proud to be his son or his blood. He's just one of a kind. I feel so special. I'm proud to be his son or his blood.
Fiji! Fiji! Fiji! Fiji! Fiji! Fiji! Fiji! Fiji! Baby! I'm Chaitao, among American.
Please note: This content is only available at GBH and the Library of Congress, either due to copyright restrictions or because this content has not yet been reviewed for copyright or privacy issues. For information about on location research, click here. More information on this record is available.
Program
The Split Horn: Life of a Hmong Shaman in America
Producing Organization
Alchemy Films
Contributing Organization
Center for Asian American Media (San Francisco, California)
AAPB ID
cpb-aacip-2b9dd5df702
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip-2b9dd5df702).
Description
Program Description
The Split Horn follows the emotional saga of Paja Thao, a Hmong shaman, and his family in the U.S. They were transplanted from the mountains of Laos during the Vietnam War to America’s heartland. For more than 17 years, Siegel has chronicled the intimate and private lives of Paja Thao, his wife and their thirteen children.This candid and moving documentary focuses on Paja, whose spiritual leadership plays a vital role in Wisconsin’s Hmong community. This intimate family portrait explores universal issues of cultural transformation, spirituality and family. It is a rare close-up view of one Hmong family’s resettlement and acculturation in America.
Broadcast Date
2001
Copyright Date
2001
Asset type
Program
Genres
Documentary
Topics
Religion
Race and Ethnicity
Subjects
Shamans; Manners and customs; Refugee families; Hmong (Asian people); Hmong American families; Rites and ceremonies
Media type
Moving Image
Duration
00:59:20.017
Credits
Director: Siegel, Taggart
Producer: McSilver, Jim
Producer: Siegel, Taggart
Producing Organization: Alchemy Films
AAPB Contributor Holdings
Center for Asian American Media
Identifier: cpb-aacip-daeb16f0459 (Filename)
Format: Digital Betacam
Generation: Master
Duration: 00:59:20
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Citations
Chicago: “The Split Horn: Life of a Hmong Shaman in America,” 2001, Center for Asian American Media, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 21, 2024, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-2b9dd5df702.
MLA: “The Split Horn: Life of a Hmong Shaman in America.” 2001. Center for Asian American Media, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 21, 2024. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-2b9dd5df702>.
APA: The Split Horn: Life of a Hmong Shaman in America. Boston, MA: Center for Asian American Media, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-2b9dd5df702