Profile Source: Peoples of Laos, Paul Hattaway
Introduction / History
In 1995, a total of 320 Tai Doi people, in 54 families, inhabited three villages in the Long District of Luang Namtha Province in northern Laos. The names of the three villages are Muang Kham, Dondchay and Muong.
The Tai Loi are also located on the other side of the Mekong River in the eastern part of Myanmar's Shan State.
There is a measure of confusion regarding the differences between Tai Doi and Tai Loi. Tai Doi simply means 'mountain people'. The authoritative Ethnologue lists it as a dialect of Tai Loi. There seems to be evidence that the Tai Loi and Tai Doi are closely related, yet are geographically separated. The Tai Loi live further to the north, near the juncture of Laos, China and Myanmar. Neither group is even mentioned in official Lao literature as an ethnic group.
Another point of confusion is their language. The Ethnologue places it under the Palaungic branch of the Mon-Khmer language family, while the Atlas des Ethnies et des Sous-Ethnies du Laos places Tai Loi under their Tai section, and even states the Tai Loi language is close to Tai Dam, while their culture is similar to the Lu. We believe the Tai Doi are a Mon-Khmer speaking group, but the confusion is caused by the fact they have lived for centuries surrounded by Tai-speaking peoples, and have absorbed many linguistic and cultural influences.
The Tai Doi have lived in Long District of Luang Namtha for at least five generations. In April, 1994, some 19 Tai Doi families reportedly left the Muang Kham Village with all their possessions, and walked two days to join themselves with Lu and Tai Dam villages.
The Tai Doi live in mixed villages with the Lu and the Akha. Each Tai Doi house contains two families. Villages are chosen near a river or stream. Shamans are consulted to locate the most auspicious place. The Tai Doi traditionally had a clan system, but it is no longer used today.
The Tai Doi are animists. They also worship their ancestors once a year. Some adhere to Theravada Buddhism, having been influenced by their Lu neighbors. There are no known Christians among the Tai Doi of Laos.
* Pray that Christians would be burd-ened for the salvation of the Tai Doi, despite their small size.
* Ask God to send workers to share the Gospel with the Tai Doi.
* Pray the Tai Doi in both Myanmar and Laos would soon know the Person of Jesus Christ.