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The Central Highlands – The People, Population, Culture and Society – Part 2 Print
Saturday, 29 October 2011 15:12

2011_Oct_29_-_Pic_1VIETRADE – The main occupation of ethnic minority groups is farming. There is crop rotation, rudimentary production mostly based on nature. The main food crop is paddy rice; in addition, there is corn, potatoes and cassava as supplemental food, also used for animal feed and brewing wine. Livestock and poultry -  cattle, pigs, chickens etc. are used for sacrifices. The ethnic citizens also have traditional crafts such as weaving, forging, carpentry, house construction, canoe making, knitting home amenities by rattan, bamboo,.... Now these trades are gradually restored to create jobs, increase income, while preserving traditional values.

 

The highlight of ethnic minority groups is high communal social activities. Traditionally hamlets of ethnic minorities were the unique and highest social unit. (Above it there was no other institution.). That hamlet would have its own segregated houses, cultivated areas, water wharf and cemetery, with no interfacing by other hamlets. Thus, each of the ethnic hamlets can be seen as a separate self-governing and relatively complete unit. The Ede ethnic group illustrates this. The head of hamlet is “Khoa pin ea” who is considered the boss of the water wharf. In addition to managing the water wharf, Khoa pin ea also is the manager and is charged with civil, security, spirituality, and external affairs. Also, in a hamlet there are people operating customary courts, in charge of the worship, sacrifices and prayers. The village patriarchs, who have experience and ethical prestige, are respected by the hamlet chief. In addition, it’s also worth mentioning of the role of those who are knowledgeable about customary law, religious activity, or landowning.

 

One of the most basic and important features of Central Highlands’ ethnic minority hamlets is self-mode operation under customary law. This is a form of legal culture which has historic precedent and so far still valid. Customary law in traditional society could exist in the form of prose or verse and transmitted orally from generation to generation; it has become flesh and blood, soaked in every act of the whole community. In traditional society, customary law remains in effect as a powerful mechanism for social convention.

 

Scope of customary law was extensive and commandments in the customary law having major significance for all local people. Besides, with regards to culture, customary law can be considered unique ethnic cultural heritage, reflecting the concepts, regulations, and rules of society. The Central Highlands’ ethnic minority groups have a rich and diverse local culture, with precious cultural tangible and intangible heritages with these serving as some examples: the lithophone, gongs and other types of folk cultural and social activities as well as the treasure of unique folklore. The Central Highlands is still maintaining many tangible and intangible cultural heritages which have historical and unique aesthetic values such as: communal houses, long houses, the lithophone, grave statues, festivals and a wealth of folklore with epics, tales, fables, word rhymes, and charming folk songs handed down through generations. A most famous heritage is the gong culture of the Central Highlands that has been recognized by UNESCO as an "intangible cultural heritage of humanity." Some peoples like the Ede and Gia-rai also create scripts based on Latin characters. (These are two earliest ethnic minority scripts born in our country).

 

The local largest ethnic minority groups from other places are ethnic groups from the northern mountainous provinces. Examples are: the Nung (112,000 people), Tay (98,000 people), Mong (42,000 people), Thai (29,000 people), Dao (26,000 people), and Muong (24,000 people).

 

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The remaining ethnic groups have little population, with about one or two people. Overall, the northern ethnic minority groups are very diligent, hard-working and after 5-7 years setting up their house here all have a stable life. However, they are also a part of the population engaged in free migration, reversing the population and laborers’ strategy of the Central Highlands, disrupting the overall planning of socio-economic development in each locality and creating overload on infrastructure. Most of the free migrants are poor, meaning increasing poverty rates, causing many difficulties for social order administration, thus affecting the ecological environment and increasing deforestation for cultivation.

 

Continuing, because of the massive migration, the State is insufficient in support, meaning that immigrants themselves have to face many difficulties at present and in the future, such as lack of capital and tools to produce, lack of stable land, low income, work issues, and wage earning. Living conditions such as housing, utilities, media activities, sanitation, health services, educational facilities, transportation, and communications are inadequate, and it takes a long time to develop evenly among populations.

 

There are four main religions in the Central Highlands region operating normally: Catholic, Buddhist, Protestant, and Cao Dai, with a total of 1,800,000 adherents (accounting for 35% of the population), nearly 3,500 clergy-monks, and about 840 kinds of worship. In recent years, the numbers of religious believers have increased because of the population growth. It is noted that the ethnic minority adherents are increasing rapidly, mainly Catholic and Protestant. The Protestant ethnic minority adherents number 324,000, accounting for 89% of all Protestants in the whole region. Catholic ethnic minority adherents number 248,000, accounting for 31% of all Catholics in the whole region. In addition, there are some other religions recognized but the number of faithful believers are few, such as Bahai and Hoa Hao Buddhism.

 
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