Introduction / History
The Upper Ta-Oy, also known as the Kantua, live in the mountainous regions of central Vietnam, primarily in the Dong Nai and Binh Tri Thien provinces. The Ta-Oy are considered one of Vietnam's official ethnic peoples. They speak a Mon-Khmer language called Taoih.
The ancestors of the Ta-Oy were part of the great Khmer empire, which flourished from the ninth century until the thirteenth century. It included present-day Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, and parts of Vietnam. Their power declined when the Thai and the Vietnamese conquered the area in the 1900s. In North Vietnam, communist rebels emerged and military regimes formed, leading to massive bloodshed. The Communist Republic of North Vietnam overtook South Vietnam in 1975.
During the Vietnamese War, many of the Ta-Oy received the title of "Hero of the People's Armed Forces" from the North Vietnamese government. After the war, they returned to their native villages.
What are their lives like?
Most of the Ta-Oy are farmers. Those living in the hills continue to use the slash and burn method of cultivation; however, some now grow wet rice. Rice is their staple food, but maize, manioc, sweet potatoes, beans, and tobacco are also grown. Their productivity is dependent upon the amount of rainfall they receive.
The Ta-Oy have more cash income than most of the other mountain peoples because they are skilled at hunting and taming elephants. There are also irrigation projects, new uses of agricultural machinery, and other local industries that have provided them with extra income. They also dig ponds and raise fish.
The Ta-Oy live in villages, or vel. Each village consists of a few houses built on stilts, and several families live in each house. Every village also has a large community home, which serves as a reception room or meeting place. This home is typically decorated with animal horns bird feathers.
In Ta-Oy society, there is a clear distinction between the rich and the poor. Nevertheless, a spirit of community prevails. The Ta-Oy are divided into several clans. Generally, they will not marry outside their tribe; however, some of the Ta-Oy have intermarried with other ethnic groups-people whom they call Ya. (The word Ya was originally the Taoih name for the French. It literally means "an incarnation of powerful spirits in human form.")
The Ta-Oy live in a patrilineal society (line of descent is traced through the males). Maternal uncles are highly respected by the Ta-Oy. The uncles care for their nieces by supplying them with food and clothes, and also by organizing their weddings. After marriage, the uncle becomes the couple's advisor.
Prior to the 1945 revolution, the status of Ta-Oy women was relatively low. Since that time, however, their status has been raised. They now take part in social activities and may even enlist in the armed forces.
Folk music plays a big part in the daily lives of the Ta-Oy. The villagers love to sing, and they call their folk-songs cat. According to their mood, they sing lullabies, love songs, or classical songs. Their musical instruments include gongs, wind instruments, and stringed instruments.
Only one of the Ta-Oy clans, the Ca Tua, knows how to weave. The Ca Tua make their own clothes, but the others buy their clothes from the surrounding ethnic groups. Most of the Ta-Oy dress like the Lao. When they become adults, the men and women have their teeth filed. The women also wear heavy earrings and other decorative rings.
What are their beliefs?
The Ta-Oy practice their traditional ethnic religions, seeking help from various spirits and objects. The most important spirits include territorial deities and ancestral spirits. The Ta-Oy also believe that spirits are present in almost every object and person.
What are their needs?
The Ta-Oy have been greatly affected by the fighting and bloodshed in their past. They need to experience emotional healing from horrors of war. Christian laborers, additional evangelistic tools, and intercession are all needed to reach the Ta-Oy with the Gospel.
* Ask the Lord to call people to go to Vietnam and share Christ with the Upper Ta-Oy.
* Pray that God will grant favor to missions agencies currently focusing on the Ta-Oy.
* Pray that God will use the few Ta-Oy believers share the Gospel with their own people.
* Ask God to send Christian humanitarian aid workers to Vietnam to minister to the physical needs of these war-torn people.
* Ask God to call forth prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through intercession.
* Pray that strong local churches will be planted among the Upper Ta-Oy.