Profile Source: Peoples of Laos, Paul Hattaway
Introduction / History
Approximately 1,600 people belonging to the Bit ethnic group inhabit eight villages in the northern tip of Laos. The majority are located in the Boun-Tai District of Phongsali Province. Others live in the Samphan and Khoa districts. A small number of Bit people have migrated to Luang Namtha Province.
Five hundred Bit people also live in China. They are located directly across the border in Mengla County of Yunnan Province. In China the Bit have not been placed under any minority group, but were counted in the 1990 census in a list of "Undetermined Minorities" by the Chinese authorities.
Most Bit villages consist of between 30 to 50 houses. They are invariably located in forested valleys at altitudes between 400-1000m (1,310-3,280 feet) above sea level. The area inhabited by the Bit in Laos is bordered by the Lu, Kim Mun and Akha.
The Bit speak a language belonging to the Northern branch of Mon-Khmer. Bit is reportedly closely related to the Khao language of Vietnam. Multi-lingualism is now prevalent among the Bit. Many can speak some or all of the Lao, Lu, Khmu and Hmong languages.
Even though they have a distinct ethnicity, the Bit were counted under the Khmu in the 1985 census. The 1995 census listed them separately however.
There are a number of clans among the Bit, named after different types of sacred birds. Over the past few decades, the Bit have started on a speedy decline towards assimilation. Today many Bit are culturally and linguistically tied to the Lu or the Lao.
Old Bit women still retain their traditional dress. They like to wear silver bracelets and pendants made of shells.
What are Their Beliefs?
Animism and ancestor worship are the strongest religions among the Bit. They observe many animistic ceremonies, including worship of the spirits of the village, house, harvest, illness and epidemics. Many spiritual traditions are dying out. In some Bit villages that are situated closer to urban populations, animistic practices have been extinct for several generations. There are no Christians among the Bit in either northern Laos or southern China.
* The Bit are being assimilated by several ethnic groups. Pray they will find their identity in Jesus Christ.
* Pray for Khmu evangelists to focus on the Bit soon.
* Ask God to bring forward a triumphant Bit church in both Laos and China, for the glory of His Name.