Profile Source: Peoples of Laos, Paul Hattaway
Introduction / History
Approximately 1,000 Kophe Akha people live in an unspecified part of Luang Namtha Province in northern Laos. They are one of a dozen distinct Akha groups in Laos. The various Akha groups are not merely clans of the same group, but would be better described as distinct tribes and ethnic groups of Akha. Each group has its own ethnicity and self-identity, while at the same time acknowledging a broader relationship with other branches of Akha. The main factor of kinship is a group's genealogy. Often, when Akha from different locations meet they begin to recite their respective genealogies to each other. These long recitations are committed to memory and passed from generation to generation. Among the Akha it is important for a man to be able to remember his complete genealogy, right back to the first man, Sm Mi O. More than 60 generations are now included. The fact that different Akha groups share the same early ancestors is important to them.
Akha women have a spectacular appearance, with their heavily ornamented peaked headdress. Made from materials as diverse as beaten silver, gibbon fur, beads, seeds and feathered tassels. Far from being an ornament only for festivals and tourists, the Akha women remove it only for cleaning, repair, and for washing their hair.
The Akha believe a host of spirits dwell inside and outside the village, including a spirit called the 'Lord of Land and Water'. They also believe in a supreme deity, Apoe Miyeh.
The Akha's religious philosophy, called Akhazang ('Akha-way'), permeates every aspect of their lives. Akhazang is more than a religion; it is a social, moral and spiritual code that guides day to day living from ceremonies to house-building, rice-planting and relationships with one another and with outsiders. Paul and Elaine Lewis note that Akhazang is "all embracing. Any who become Christians, or for any reason discontinue the observance of the Akha Way, are expected to leave the village."
Living in a Communist country that prohibits evangelism and persecutes Christians, the Kophe Akha have never had a chance to hear that Jesus Christ is The Way.
* Pray the Kophe Akha would soon live their lives by God's Word, and not only by their own ancient laws.
* Ask God to glorify His Name among the Kophe Akha.
* Pray for every part of the Kophe Akha's culture and society to reflect the goodness of their Creator.