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Cher Tang Yang listens to a question being asked by an audience member about the different practices of Shamanism, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016 (Ricky Gutierrez / The Collegian)

Understanding Hmong culture through shamanism

A panel of Hmong Americans discussed their daily lives in American society, stating their weekends are sacred for them to practice their beliefs, while the work week is a cultural compromise they must make in western society as the Cross Cultural and Gender Center presented, “Shamanism: Religious Diversity Among the Hmong” on Tuesday.

“The workshop’s mission wanted to create an open discussion for the Fresno State community about shamanism and to understand its background,” said Tom Thao, a graduate student in multicultural multilingual education at Fresno State.  

The Hmong community has a significant presence in the Central Valley. According to 2010 Census data, Fresno has the second largest Hmong population in the United States.

The workshop consisted of a panel of five guests discussing their culture and community. They expressed the cultural compromises they have made in the United States and the identity struggle they face with their traditions in Western society.  

“One cultural conflict is animal sacrifice, which is viewed as animal cruelty in western culture,” said Shai Chang, a sociology major at Fresno State.  He says his culture and spiritual beliefs are sometimes misunderstood.

For him, shamanism is more spiritual than it is religious.  

Many discussed the fear of losing their cultural practices in generations to come, because they face a cultural struggle war between Hmong identity and American pop culture.   

“I hope people walk away from this with a greater awareness and appreciation for how shamanism affects Hmong students, staff and faculty,” said May Yang, a graduate student and student lead coordinator at the Cross Culture and Gender Center.

She expressed concern with the violence in society and seeks to broaden awareness of cultural understanding through workshops like this.