• Navigation

La Crosse Hmong Community Oral Histories


> Location: University of Wisconsin – La Crosse Area Research Center

> Oral histories referenced in this collection:

Women’s sewing group. Interviewed Ge Vang. 2001. Transcript. La Crosse Area Research Center, Murphy Library, La Crosse, WI.

Koua Vang. Interview by Ge Vang. 2000. Transcript. La Crosse Area Research Center, Murphy Library, La Crosse, WI.

Romain Lor Vang. Interview by Ge Vang. 2000. Transcript, LaCrosse Area Research Center, Murphy Library, La Crosse, WI.

Collection Summary

This collection is made up of three interviews: 1) a women’s sewing group, 2) Koua Vang, and 3) Romain Lor Vang. It’s part of a larger collection of Hmong oral history interviews by Ge Vang. The Hmong are an ethnic group that can be found in Southeast Asia. Today many Hmong live in the United States because of the Vietnam War. During the 1960s, the Hmong were recruited by United States military to fight secretly for us. We lost the war, and the Hmong had to flee. Between 1975 and 1980, over 42,000 Hmong political refugees resettled in the United States. Today, Wisconsin has a significant Hmong population, some of whom can be found right here in LaCrosse! These interviews discuss the daily lives and struggles of Hmong Americans, especially the differences between the old ways and the new. Ge asks a lot of questions about the survival of Hmong culture in the United States.

The collection consists of three folders that each contain a separate typed and easy-to-read transcript for each interview. There are also audio recording CDs that are included with each transcript that you can listen to and follow along with the transcript!

Collection Description

NOTE: Ge Vang conducts all of the interviews. He is not closely related to Koua and Romain Vang.


Women’s Sewing Group

In the interview with the women’s sewing group, Ge Vang talked with a group of Hmong women some related as sister-in-laws, aunts, and mother-in-laws. The group discussed their family and lives in Wisconsin, living in the U.S. as members of the Hmong community. Children are a topic throughout the interview. They are becoming Americanized and what many of the women consider rebellious. The women are very concerned because they want to preserve the Hmong culture and identity. Their children however seem uninterested. The children’s rebellious behavior and their disinterest in traditional culture shows the growing differences between the Hmong parents and their Americanized children. Ge Vang’s interview with the women’s sewing group is 15 pages long. Also, the transcript of the women’s sewing club abruptly ends mid-interview for unknown reasons!

Pages 1-7: The group of women introduce themselves and discuss the future as they see it. They talk a lot about raising children in America, and their kids’ assimilation to U.S. culture.
Pages 7-11: The women address dating and marriage in the community, and how it is different in America. They also talk about their children’s education.
Pages 12-14: The women discuss how they discipline their children and household rules.


Koua Vang

The second transcript is an interview with Koua Vang. Ge and Koua discuss Koua’s early memories of life in Southeast Asia before moving to the United States, and his adjustment to life in LaCrosse. Koua and Ge talk a lot about living in the Hmong community, and how Koua faced challenges balancing life as a Hmong man and living in the United States. Toward the end of the interview Koua confesses he believes that eventually the Hmong language and culture will disappear in the United States because the younger generations will not learn traditional practices and language, and because of the clash between the U.S. and Hmong culture. The transcript of Koua Vang’s interview with Ge Vang is 22 pages long. This transcript’s questions and answers have been translated into English from Hmong!

Pages 1-7: Koua introduces himself and discusses his early childhood, including a few memories of escaping into Thailand! Ge and Koua also discuss the difficulties of coming to the U.S.
Pages 7-10: Koua talks about his wife and son, and his marriage. He also talks about college and his career goals.
Pages 11-15: Koua and Ge discuss traditional Hmong practices and modernity, as well as his own self-identity as a Hmong person. He also brings up his thoughts on his clan and family.
Pages 15-22: Ge and Koua address gender roles and equality in the Hmong community, as well as the future of the Hmong culture.


Romain Lor Vang

The final transcript of this collection is an interview with Romain Vang. Romain, who was a college student at the time of the interview, recounts memories of his childhood in the United States and Southeast Asia. Throughout much of the interview, Ge and Romain talk about Romain and his family moving to the United States. They also discuss some the conflicts that resulted from the differences between the U.S. and the Hmong community. Romain confesses that he doesn’t think that the Hmong culture will last in America, and that it will eventually disappear in the coming generations. Romain Lor Vang’s transcript is 28 pages long.

Pages 1-4: Romain Vang introduces himself and talks about being born in Laos. He also talks a little bit about life in Thailand in the refugee camps, and moving to the United States when he was eleven. (Take Note: This means that Romain could remember life in Southeast Asia and what it was like to adjust to life in the U.S.)
Pages 4-10: Romain tells about school and dating in America, and problems such as racism. He also discusses getting a job while in high school.
Pages 10-14: Romain compares Hmong culture to American culture, and how these differences can sometimes cause trouble! He also talks about his family’s clan in Eau Claire.
Pages 14-20: These pages cover Romain’s college and career goals. Ge and Romain also examine the future of Hmong culture in the United States, including religion.
Pages 21-28: Romain examines the generation gap in Hmong culture and his relationship with his parents. The two also discuss family relationships and marriage.


Reviewed by: Ashley Schwartz

University of Wisconsin-
La Crosse, Murphy Library Area Research Center

Location: University of Wisconsin – La Crosse Area Research Center
CITATION: Tillman Brothers. Box 1. MSS K, Friedrich Tillman’s Diary,
1856. University of Wisconsin – La Crosse Archives, La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Collection Summary

Imagine yourself traveling across the Atlantic Ocean without anyone you knew by your side. You are on the same ship for five weeks under tough conditions and are dreaming of home cooked meals every night. In addition to this, you are sailing to an unknown land. Somewhere that holds the promise of a new life.


In 1856, twenty-one-year-old Friedrich “Fritz” Tillman did just that. He left everything he knew in Europe and made the famous voyage to America. During his travels, he wrote in a diary explaining his hardships, challenges, and fun times on board. In this collection, you will find Tillman’s original diary (yes, from 1856!) written in German. Don’t worry, however, another historian translated the diary into English for easy reading. No need to learn German to have fun with this primary source!

Collection Description

Tillman’s diary covers his five-week trip aboard the ship as it sailed to the United States. This FFA only covers Box 1. It details the full diary and divides it into two parts: difficult and enjoyable experiences. The historian who translated the diary from German to English followed Tillman’s original page numbers. As you read the translation, look for headings that say “Page I” or “Page II.” Each page has a lot of information about the trip. Please note: the translation is written in cursive, but don’t worry, after a little while your eyes will become used to it!

Box 1

This folder has an article from Then and Now, a monthly publication of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. The article, written in January 1966, is a summary of Friedrich Tillman’s journey to America as written in his diary. This article is a nice starting point to decide if you want to read the real diary.

Folder 1
This folder has the original pages of Friedrich Tillman’s diary, laminated to protect the yellowing, fragile parchment. The pages are written in German, but nevertheless are very interesting to see. Remember, this was written in 1856 aboard a ship!

Difficult Experiences

Page 1:  Tillman expresses his frustration when he is not given enough water. Also, he struggles with preparing his meals because there were, quite literally, too many cooks in the kitchen!

Page 2: Tillman is having a difficult time sleeping on the ship because the other passengers are too loud. Tillman also talks about passengers getting very seasick.

Page 3:  After a huge storm, Tillman faces a flooded cabin and a very wet mattress. It was so bad that he had to carry the entire mattress on deck for it to dry!

Page 4: There are a lot of bad things that happened in this section. Much to Tillman’s surprise, someone had broken into his belongings. He searched and searched for the thief, but had no luck. Tillman seems to be frustrated with almost everything that is going on. It also does not help that the weather is horrible and is frightening other passengers.

Page 5: As a result of the constant motion and rocking of the boat, Tillman experiences some headaches that force him to rest.

Enjoyable Experiences

Page 1:  Aboard the ship, Tillman is surprised at the variety of food he is given for the journey. He is given different meats, biscuits, coffee, and even cigars!

Page 2:  Tillman comments that the ocean looks beautiful and is similar to a giant mirror.

Page 5:  During a big storm, passengers and sailors socialize inside the ship. There is music being played and the sailors put on a comedy show to entertain the passengers.

Page 6:  Tillman awakes to gunshots! Alarmed, he finds out that the sailors were celebrating America’s Independence Day. The rest of the day was full of activities and battle reenactments. Also, another ship passes by and is a sight to see, according to Tillman.

Page 7:  Passengers flood to the top decks to see whales pass by the ship. Tillman is excited because there is a full ship-cleaning day. Finally, the harbors of New York are in sight!

Page 8:  The ship gets to the harbor and Tillman is impressed with America. The voyage had finally ended!


Reviewed by: Olivia Roehri


Created by Kaley Brown


> Location: Murphy Library, University of Wisconsin La Crosse
> CITATION: Thai Vue, interview by Charles Lee, 1994, transcript, La Crosse Area Research Center, Murphy Library, La Crosse, WI.

Collection Summary

Thai Vue was born around 1953 near the Vietnam border in Laos. He grew up during the Vietnam War era and the American funded “Secret War” in Laos. The Hmong supported the Americans fighting against the communists during the war, but because it was secret, few Americans knew about what the Hmong did. America lost the Vietnam War, and so Thai Vue and the rest of the Hmong population had to go into hiding to avoid being killed by the new government. As a result, thousands of Hmong risked their lives to escape Laos, and many, like Thai Vue, immigrated to the United States.

UWL professor Charles Lee interviewed Vue during the summer of 1994. The interview covers all of Vue’s life until that point. He discusses everything from his childhood in Laos, to hiding from the Communists and escaping to Thailand, to his experiences in America after immigrating in 1978. The recorded interview lasts for over six hours! This finding aid concentrates on the interview’s written transcription and digital version, and covers just the sections that relate to Thai Vue’s life during the war, escaping Laos, the refugee camps, and the cultural differences between America and Laos.

Collection Description

The collection consists of a 160 page typed transcript, several tapes, and a digital audio recording.


Reading vs. Listening

Listening to oral histories allows the researcher to become more familiar with the subject. Thai Vue shows a lot of emotion and laughs a lot during the interview, and the transcript does not capture that. He also repeats words or phrases that are important to him, and the transcriber cut a lot of those out. However, listening to the tapes can be difficult since they are frequently recordings of earlier recordings. The tape numbers do not match up with the ones written in the transcript and they can be very fuzzy at times. Tape players are also difficult to use if you are not familiar with them. The digital recording might be easier to use since it is on the computer and allows the user to jump to a specific spot in the interview.

If you decide to listen to the interview, the numbers below will help you locate topics on the digital version. Use the numbers to pick sections for listening – listed below – and quickly jump from subject to subject.


Life during War

1. Personal Background (pgs. 1-5)
3, 10. Vietnam War (pgs. 5-8 and 26-28)
5. Education (pgs. 8-12)
6, 7. Parents (pgs. 12-17)
8. Leaving Laos for Thailand/ Living with Communists (pgs. 17-24)
11. Communist Soldiers
12. American Evacuation (Fighting Communists) (pgs. 32-53)
13, 14. Hiding in the Jungle and Deaths (pgs. 53-57)
15. Marriage (pgs. 57-65)
24. Hmong People and the Government of Laos (pgs. 95-96)


Escape to Laos and the Refugee Camps

8. Leaving Laos for Thailand/ Living with Communists (pgs. 17-24)
9. Experiences, Prison Camps (pgs. 24-26)
16, 17, 18. Leaving for Thailand, Prison and Refugee Camps (pgs. 65-86)
21. Resettlement Interview (pgs. 86-92)
23. Refugee Camps and Thai People (pgs. 92-94)
25. Finances, Family separation (pgs. 97-98)


Immigration and Cultural Differences between Laos and America

4. American Impressions (pg. 8)
25. Finances, Family Separation (pgs. 97-98)
26. United States (pgs. 98-101)
27. Cultural Differences (pgs. 101-105)
30. Employment/ English/ Winter (pgs. 105-109)
35. Opinions, La Crosse (pgs. 115-122)
36. Parenting (pgs. 122-131)
37. Shamanism (pgs. 131-132)
38. School Board Membership/Hmong in Public Schools (pgs. 133-153)
39. Social Issues, La Crosse (pgs. 153-159)


Reviewed by: Kaley Brown