Profile Source: Peoples of Laos, Paul Hattaway
Introduction / History
Linguist Frank Proschan listed a 1989 figure of 194 O Du people in Laos. They live in the Nonghet District of Xiangkhoang Province, directly on the Laos-Vietnam border. The area was previously known as Samnuea Province. Coincidentally, a 1995 study in Vietnam found there to be exactly the same number of O Du (194) living within that country.
In Vietnam the O Du are acknowledged as an official minority nationality, but in Laos the O Du are not officially recognized at all. It is uncertain which ethnic group they were counted under in the 1995 census. Neighboring people groups in Laos call the O Du Tay Hat, or Hat. This is a derogatory name meaning 'rag people'. They call themselves O Du.
Five centuries ago the O Du were a large and prosperous group who lived along the Nam Mon and Nam Mo rivers in both Laos and Vietnam. At different times they were attacked by the Tai Dam, Han Chinese, Hmong and Khmu, who chased them away and took them as slaves.
The O Du like to build their houses on stilts and have thatched straw roofs. Inside, rooms are partitioned off with plaited bamboo. Despite being on the verge of extinction, the few remaining O Du are proud of their ethnicity.
The O Du language, which is part of the Northern Mon-Khmer family, is on the verge of extinction. It is only spoken by a few elderly people, who are greatly respected because of it. The O Du believe they must learn their language again in their old age so that when they die they will be able to communicate with their ancestors. They fear if they cannot speak their language their ancestors will not be able to recognize them in the afterlife. In the same way, old O Du women carefully preserve a traditional garment. They put it on at the end of their lives so they can be presented to their ancestors.
The O Du are a very superstitious people. They worship a multitude of spirits. They believe each person has a soul. When someone dies their soul leaves the body and resides in the house, watching over the family's activities.
Jesus Christ has never been named among the O Du. They remain an unreached people in both Laos and Vietnam.
* The O Du have been slaves to people and demons for centuries. Pray they would soon find liberation in Christ.
* Ask God to raise up laborers to plant churches among the O Du.
* Pray that God would lead Khmu and Hmong believers to share the Gospel with the O Du.