The Duota were listed in CIM missionary John Kuhn's 1945 tribal survey of Yunnan Province, entitled We Found a Hundred Tribes. Kuhn called them Dota. In the 1950s the Chinese authorities included the Duota as part of the Hani nationality. They have always viewed themselves as a distinct tribe and do not believe they are closely related to the 18 groups combined to form the Hani. As one writer explains, "There are many subdivisions of Hanis - Buda, Bukong, Biyo and Duota, among others - and they all have their own traditions and ways of dressing."
Records indicate a tribal people known as the Heyis lived south of the Dadu River in the third century BC. Between the fourth and eighth centuries some of them migrated to the Lancang area in western Yunnan before moving east to their present location in Honghe. After living in their own communities for several generations, they developed their own ethnic identities. The Duota are believed to be one of these tribes.
The main festivals of the Duota fall in June and October. The Kuzhazha (Sixth Moon Festival) lasts from three to six days. Duota men and women dress in their finest traditional clothing. Duota men are "bold and unconstrained by nature. Their deep love for life, their hopes for their people, and their wishes for the year ahead are all reflected in their wild dances and the way they dress during the Kuzhazha."
The Duota say they were once in communication with heaven, but after an argument with the gods they were separated from heaven and no longer have access. Today some Duota are animists, but most youth consider themselves nonreligious.
There are few churches or Christian communities among the Duota, even though they live near the heavily evangelized Kado and Biyo people groups. Many Duota have some surface knowledge of the gospel, but it has never moved their hearts, probably because the message has always come to them in a language other than their own.