Profile Source: Peoples of Laos, Paul Hattaway
Introduction / History
More than 26,000 people in the Nguan ethnic group were listed in the 1995 Lao census. Ethnographer Laurent Chazee, earlier in that same year, estimated a lower population of 12,000 Nguan people. There is some confusion surrounding the existence of the Nguan. Despite the fact they are a relatively large group, and are very ethnically distinct and isolated, the Nguan do not appear in the authoritative Ethnologue, and have therefore also not appeared on Christian mission lists. This is probably due to the fact that until recently, the Lao government counted the Nguan as part of the Khmu, and did not recognize them as a distinct tribe. In the 1985 census, however, the Nguan were treated separately. There is no doubt that ethno-linguistically the Nguan qualify as a distinct group.
The majority of Nguan live in the districts of Nale, Viangphoukha and Luang Namtha in Luang Namtha Province, where their villages are near the Khuen, Lamet and Khmu Rok. In 1975 a number of Nguan families migrated to Houayxay District in Bokeo Province, where today they inhabit several communities. The Nguan live in stilted houses. Craftsmen carve images into the stilts. Nguan roofs are made of wooden tiles, and are not simply thatch as is the case with most tribal groups in Laos. Their villages are arranged with the houses in a circular pattern, facing towards a communal house in the middle.
The Nguan language is a distinct member of the Mon-Khmer family. It is partially related to Khmu and Samtao. The Nguan can understand only a little of the Lamet language.
The Nguan divide into two main clans, which are named after two different kinds of birds: Sim Takok and Sim Ome. To the clan members, these birds are sacred and must never be killed.
The Nguan are animists. They sacrifice chickens to appease the spirit of the forest, kill pigs to placate the spirit of the village, and cows or buffaloes to the spirit of the house. Shamans are still active among the Nguan. Their main job is to preside over the annual rice festival, when a pig is sacrificed.
There are at least two churches among the Nguan, containing more than 200 believers. Most this group, however, have yet to hear the Gospel.
* Pray that they will choose to follow Christ rather than to sacrifice and worship evil spirits.
* Ask God to empower the Nguan Christians to witness for His glory.
* Pray for an outpouring of the conviction and grace of God to come upon Nguan people everywhere.