History of the Tai tribe in Oudomxay Province
Actually, the background of the Tai tribe is similar to Lao and Thai Lue minority. Originally, Tai tribe moved from the South of China along the Mae Nam Dam River and Nam Mao River and then continued moving to Xern La, Lai Chao and Dienbienphu Province, Vietnam and after many years some of them decided to move to Laos, especially in Oudomxay Province. There are 3 Tai minority villages in Beng District. The total population is 1,751 – Female: 894. There are 3 villages in Nomar Distrct – the population is 1,666 – Female: 730. There are 2 villages in Hoon District – the population is 1,290 – Female: 590. There are 7 villages in Xay District – the population is 732 – Female: 314. The whole population of the Tai people in 4 districts is 5,439 – Female: 2,528 = 2,092 %. This is based on the statistic in 2011.
Name: The Tai tribe is sometimes called “Thai” in Oudomxay Province, but Tai is the name that they have been using for a long time. Tai means “Human”.
Actually, there are Tai Dam” Black Tai”, Tai Daeng ”Red Tai”, Tai Khao “White Tai”. So, people will call them according to what kind of cloth they wear and what color they use. If we see someone wearing a black cloth then we realize that they are Tai Dam “Black Tai”.
Language: The Tai language is considered and identified in the language of Lao – Tai group. They have their own writing pattern and it’s just like the ancient Lao writing form. The language is totally different from the other tribal languages. At the moment, there are only some old people know how to write and read it, but not the young generation.
Belief, tradition and culture: Of course, they have their own rich culture and have been keeping and practicing it from thousand years ago. The majority of the Tai people are animist and they have different important spirits in a household, such as spirit of the father, spirit of the mother, spirit of the house, spirit of the village, spirit of the region, spirit of the forest, spirit of the river and many more. The most important one is the spirit of the house. Each house has its own sacred altar and it is put on the corner of the house or somewhere appropriate. People are not allowed to touch because it’s a worship place.
The Tai festivals consist of Tai New Year festival celebration, Ghost raising festival (Spirits of the house), and others.
Family: A son is more demand in the family and recognized as one of the most important person because the son is the one who keeps continuing the race of the family (The blood of the family, especially the father). When a daughter gets married she will leave home and follow her husband. They believe that “One wife – one husband” is the greatest practice. All sons and daughters will receive family properties from their parents, but the first son will receive much more than the others because he is the one who will be in charge of taking care of them until the end of time. What they get from their parents are: Cultivation land area, cattle, buffalo, pig and other things. According to the research regarding the Tai clan in Oudomxay Province, it is found that there are many different clans referred to animals: Sing Nyierng - Goat “Yierng clan”, Sing Nok Tang Lor – Bird ”Nok tang lor clan”, Sing Ka – Bird “Ka clan”, Sing Ling Khang – Monkey “Ling Khang clan” and other clans. Each clan has its own practice and they won’t kill the animal that they are referred to.
House: The traditional Tai’s house is similar to the Lao ancient style. There are posts and they are put on the big stone to ensure the safety. The house wall is made of bamboo and flat timber (Plank) is used as floor. The roof is covered by rattan leaves and other appropriate leaves. Each house has a balcony or a place for keeping and saving water and always a waste basket under the house as well as storage for keeping materials and equipment. There’s no separate bedroom like other tribal houses. Curtain is used to divide the rooms. One important thing is not allowed to put the glass “upside down”.
Birth: When a woman gives birth, she has to stay and sleep near the fire place in order to get warmer to her body. It takes 1 month to go and she has to drink only hot water boiled with herbal medicine.
Death: When someone passed away, a big funeral is held in order to send the soul of the dead to the heaven. The corps is buried in the forest.
Literature: There are traditional Tai singing, dancing, bamboo crossing dance, flute blowing, storytelling, and so on. The cloth of the Tai tribe is produced from soft cotton with the natural black color dying. They do weaving and knitting for having their cloth. You will find that the Tai cloth is very beautiful, colorful and unique.
Economy: Rice cultivation is the main activity for generating their income. Moreover, they also focus more on vegetable planting, animal rising, handicraft production, cotton processing, small trade, and embroidery.In Oudomxay Province, there are two types of Tai tribe. The first one is Tai Dam “Black Tai” and the second one is Tai Khao “White Tai”. We will realize and recognize them who they are and which branch are they from when we see what color of cloth they wear. (Only black and white)