Profile Source: Peoples of Laos, Paul Hattaway
Introduction / History
Possibly as many as 700 people of the May ethnic group live in a remote area along the Laos-Vietnam border in the Bouarapha District of Khammouan Province. Wurm and Hattori, in their 1981 Language Atlas of the Pacific Area, listed a total population of 1,500 May in Laos and Vietnam. Their location has been given as "both sides of the Vietnam-Laos border, east of Phuc Trac, southeast of the Arem."
The May are part of a larger group called Chut. These days, most of the different tribes of Chut speak one language, but in the past they spoke different dialects and fought with each other. Still today, however, each group carries its own ethnicity and customs. In Laos, the May were officially counted in the 1995 census under the Xaek (Sach) ethnic group.
The name May means 'beggar' in their own language, which is part of the Viet-Muong branch of Mon-Khmer.
The several different tribes of Chut in Laos are called Kha Tong Luang ('Yellow-Leaf People') by local people because they used to build temporary shelters made of banana leaves, and moved on when the leaves had yellowed and withered. This has led to a great deal confusion among researchers and ethnographers because there are two other groups in Laos who practice the same custom. We have named these other two groups Mlabri and Aheu.
May women are experts at finding edible roots, snails, vegetables and mushrooms on the forest floor. May men hunt small game using traps and crossbows with poisoned arrows. Dogs are also used to track animals during large-scale hunting expeditions.
When a May dies, the corpse is kept inside the house for three days. Mourners present offerings of food to the soul of the deceased. After three days the corpse is placed in a grave, which is filled with soil until a mound of dirt remains above ground.
The various Chut tribes share a common belief in a Creator God. They take great care to recite their legends to future generations in stories and folk-songs called ka-tum and ka-lenh.
* Pray the May would soon be introduced to their loving Creator, who longs to be in relationship with them.
* Ask God to send His workers to the May in both Laos and Vietnam.
* Pray the May may no longer be known as beggars, but as children of the King and joint-heirs with Christ.