Sai Shoua Yang
(12/31/31 – 12/9/2020)
Hmong Americans mourn yet the loss of another Leader: Tasseng Sai Shoua Yang
Born on the mountains of Laos to a farming family, Sai Shoua Yang established an early reputation for his tireless efforts to support the life of his community. He was elected as Tasseng, head of the sub-district of Xiangkhoang, Laos, as a young man.
During America’s Secret War, he became a reluctant soldier working on behalf of General Vang Pao and the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States of America. In 1975 when the Americans left the country with the highest ranking military families, Yang was left behind to fend for his family and the hundreds of thousands that had been abandoned to a declaration of genocide by the incoming communist government.
In the jungles of Laos, Yang rose to fame for his valor, his unwavering courage, and his steadfast commitment to the safety and survival of his people. For years, Yang and the families that followed him sought to win back the freedoms of their people to no avail. Those he led understood he would not leave them behind.
Yang eventually led many families through the jungles of Laos to the refugee camps of Thailand when it was clear the remnants of America’s Secret War had no other recourse if they were to survive. In the camps, Yang cemented his reputation as a leader for his people with his compassion and his care for those who came to seek his counsel and share from his table.
In 1988, Yang and his family was resettled to central California. There, he returned to the life he knew as a boy among the fields, leading when asked, responding to the needs of his community with his wisdom, love, and support for the older and the younger generations. In 1997, Yang moved his family to the cold of Minnesota to reunite with his remaining brothers and continue his work as an elder and an oral historian of the war and its aftermath. As a voice of the war, he became a prominent spokesperson for peace.
Sai Shoua Yang passed away on December 9th, 2020 from COVID-19. His family will remember him as a father, a brother, a husband, and a guardian of lives. His community will remember him for his tireless service to the Hmong effort to remain as one people despite the winds of war, as an inspiration and model of leadership and service for generations to come. His country, now America, we hope will remember him not as another victim of the Coronavirus but as someone who dared to rise from his humble circumstances and lived to change the tides of history.
Our father, brother, friend, and leader lived his life trying to protect the safety of his family and community. Out of respect for the way he lived his life, Sai Shoua Yang’s funeral has been deferred until conditions are safer for everyone.