The Hmong Knife

Relationship: Child of im/migrant

 When I was a little boy, I always gravitated towards the raim Hmoob (Hmong Knife). I would always try to play with it when the elders weren’t looking or when we were playing around the house. The reason I was always attracted to it was because of the simple fact that it looked like a sword, and it also looked like it had so much history behind it. I knew there must be some kind of interesting story behind it. As I grew older, I slowly forgot about it. Until recently, my grandpa asked me to help him with butchering a pig. Using a Hmong knife to cut up the pig into pieces of pork, I reminisced upon my childhood and all the memories I had. After I finished, I started to research and dig up the history and the truth behind this piece.The raim Hmoob, known as the “bird knife” because of its shape that resembles a bird’s tail as it rises to take off. It’s about 14 inches long and has a wooden sheath. It is made from various scrap metals because back then the Hmong didn’t have the fortune to pick and choose which metal they could forge with; they sometimes even made it out of the steel shackles they were chained in. It can be utilized while gardening, in the kitchen, or doing ceremonies. I think it’s important to remember little fragments of history like this knife because it could be easily lost in time. All of the struggles of the Hmong people are translated into this knife. And it all comes back to me, the next generation of Hmong, to pass down the history and knowledge.

Place(s): Thailand, Laos, Minnesota, North Carolina
Year: 1989

– Tommy Thaying Chang

Relationship:  Child of im/migrant Child of im/migrant