Profile Source: Peoples of Laos, Paul Hattaway
Introduction / History
More than 17,000 Katu people inhabit 40 villages in Laos along the Upper Xekong River and along the watershed of the Songboung River basin near the Vietnam border. In Laos the Katu inhabit areas within Xekong, Saravan, and Champasak provinces. It is very difficult to access many Katu villages because of the lack of roads in the area. The Katu live in long rectangular houses in the forests. Each Katu home contains between two to eight families. Their villages are often shared with the Alak, Ngae, Ta Oi and Talieng. About 30,000 Katu live in Vietnam, where they are officially part of the Bru-Van Kieu minority group.
The Katu in Laos are often mistaken with the Kantu and Kado people groups, who are sometimes also referred to as Katu. All three groups are distinct ethno-linguistic identities.
Katu women traditionally tattooed their faces, but this custom has been dying out in recent decades. The Katu tend towards monogamous families, but rich men and village leaders are allowed to have two or more wives.
The Katu are known throughout Laos for their annual buffalo-sacrifice ceremony. Buffaloes are killed as an offering to the spirits, and to call on them to protect and bless their communities. One visitor recounted the sacrificial ceremony: "During the ceremony, the men of the village don wooden masks, hoist spears and wooden shields, and dance around the buffaloes in the center of the circle formed by their houses. After a prescribed period of dancing, the men converge on the buffaloes and spear them to death. The meat is divided among the villagers and each household places a piece in a basket on a pole in front of their house as a spirit offering."
Shamans (spirit priests) are also active among the Katu. They must be paid with chickens or silver for their services. Weddings are very costly for the groom and his family. They are required to pay a dowry worth the equivalent of 15 buffaloes. If they are unable to pay, the groom must live with his wife's family after marriage and work the debt off.
Although the New Testament has been translated for the Katu in Vietnam, where there is a larger number of believers, only a handful of Katu in Laos are known to profess Christianity.
* Pray for a clear presentation of the gospel message.
* Ask God to send Katu believers in Vietnam to their lost relatives in Laos.
* Pray a strong evangelizing church would soon emerge among the demon-fearing Katu of Laos.