Who are the Montagnards?
The Montagnards (pronounced mon-TAN-yards) are from the Central Highlands – or mountains – of Vietnam. There are about 30 different Montagnard tribes. Each tribe has its own name, language, and customs.
The term “Montagnard” loosely translates into mountain people. It has French origins. The word is based on the French word montagne, meaning mountain. During the Vietnam War, many American soldiers shortened the word to “Yards” because it was faster and easier to say. It is considered an affectionate abbreviation of the word Montagnard.
Although Montagnards are from Vietnam, they do not consider themselves to be Vietnamese. Montagnards are originally from the remote mountain areas of Vietnam, and are quite different from most Vietnamese people. Instead, they typically identify with their tribe name such as Jarai or Rhade, two of the larger Montagnard tribes. Sometimes the word “Dega” or “Degar” is also used to refer to Montagnards.
To draw a comparison that may help many Americans understand, the term “Montagnard” is very similar to “Native American.” It collectively identifies many different tribes, like Sioux or Cherokee tribes in the Native American culture. Like the Montagnard people, the Native Americans were the indigenous people in their respective regions.
Where do Montagnards live?
Montagnards are originally from Vietnam and many still live there today. They were the indigenous people in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. The highlands were once a remote, mountainous area in Vietnam, with plenty of land for the Montagnards to live well.
Today many Montagnards have fled Vietnam as political refugees. They leave their homeland to seek freedom from oppression, discrimination, and abuse. Many Montagnards resettle in countries that tend to be safer for them, including the United States, Australia, and other allied countries worldwide.
North Carolina is home to one of the largest groups of Montagnards outside of Vietnam. Many of them live in Greensboro, Charlotte, and Raleigh areas in North Carolina. They started settling here in the 1980s for various reasons. More information about that is available here: http://bit.ly/SgHRWV.