The Montagnards are Vietnam’s Indigenous People
A number of the images in the Innocent Souls: Vietnam 1968 are of the Montagnards. The Montagnards are the indigenous people of Vietnam who were driven from the coastal regions by the current inhabitants of Vietnam and Cambodia in the 9th century. They were given the name Montagnards, which means highlander, by the French. They were considered savages by the Vietnamese and in the past were mostly ignored by the central government. However as the Vietnam war progressed, the strategic location of the Central Highlands caused the participants on both sides to focus on their villages. The Montagnards fought side by side with the US Special Forces and are known for their fierceness and bravery in battle, as well as being extremely loyal to their comrades.
Many Montagnards are Christians and Targeted for Extermination
Many of these Montagnards practiced Christianity, having been converted by 18th Century French missionaries. After 1975, when the North’s communist regime took over, these Christian people were targeted for extermination. The government has admitted to a sterilization program for women, often incentivized with offers of jobs and financial rewards. Some Montagnards have been granted asylum by the US Government and there are several communities in the US. Many have settled in North Carolina, because of the number of Special Forces veterans living in the area. The largest population is near Asheboro, not far from Ft. Bragg, and the area they have occupied has become know as the New Central Highlands.
Montagnards Suffer Greatly in Post War Years
After the war the new communist government began taking lands from the Montagnards for the resettlement of Vietnamese who work the newly converted coffee plantations. Many of these operations are owned by multi-national corporations including US interests. The Montagnards have been forcibly relocated to areas of infertile land where many starve and suffer malnutrition. Charges of human rights violations brought before numerous international organizations have for the most part been ignored as the US and other nations compete for trade with Vietnam.
Save the Montagnard People, Inc.
Save the Montagnard People, Inc is a not for profit corporation established by members of US Special Forces and other supporters to champion the rights of these people in America and Vietnam. “Since our beginning we have always been 100% volunteer and unpaid. This means there is a continuing responsibility for many of our members who carry out day-to-day operations, but because they care, this allows all the money we raise to be used for the benefit of the Montagnard People. ‘They were there for us then, are you here for them now?’ ”
More information about this organization is available at www.montagnards.org.