The Small Odu Ethnic Group in Vietnam

The Small Odu Ethnic Group in Vietnam

Lables: Ethnic Groups, Mon-Khmer Group, Odu ethnic group

Proper names: Odu or Idu.

Other name: Tay Hat ("the poor").

Population: 194 people.

Language: The Odu languages belong to the Mon- Khmer language group (of the Austro-Asiatic language family). Nowadays, just the older people can speak the mother tongue. Most of the Odu people use Khmu or Thai languages for daily communication.

History: In the past, the Odu lived along the two fivers named Nam Mo and Nam Non, of which the latter used to be the more densely populated area. Because of the historical events that occurred in this area, the Odu had to move on to other areas and live with other ethnic groups. Nowadays, the Odu mainly live in Xop Pot and Kim Hoa villages of Kim Da Commune, Tuong Duong district in central Nghe An Province. The Odu, together with the Tay Phoong group, also inhabit Sam Nua Province in Laos.

Production activities: The Odu are agriculturists, who cultivate both swidden and submerged fields. They have only one crop per year. The Odu slash and burn their fields, and' sow their rice seeds between April and May of the Lunar calendar. Harvest is from September to October. The main tools used in agricultural production are the axe, the knife and the digging stick used to make holes in the grounds when sowing seedlings. Apart from rice - the main agricultural crop - people also plant manioc, maize, y di and bean. Nowadays, gathering and hunting still play an important role in their economy. Raising cows, buffaloes, goats, pigs and chickens is also well developed. Cows and buffaloes are destined to be used as draught power. Pigs and poultry are raised to serve religious rituals. Wickerwork and weaving by rattan is for daily use and for barter trade. In the past, the Odu could even weave cloth.

Diet: The Odu usually have one supplementary meal (breakfast) and two main meals (lunch and dinner). In the past, they ate steamed sticky rice but now they eat both rice and cu nau (a plant yielding brown dye), yam or manioc, and maize instead and especially when they have a bad crop. The Odu enjoy drinking wine and smoking homegrown tobacco.

Clothing: Nowadays, the Odu wear clothing like Thai or Viet people. Just a few types of traditional Odu clothing remain today.

Housing: In the past, the Odu traditional house, called xien tang, was built on stilts facing the mountain. When building the pillar of the house, the Odu usually follow certain procedures. But nowadays this kind of house no longer exists, and the Odu now live in stilt houses that look the same as Thai houses.

Transportation: The Odu transport goods using baskets, carried with a tumpline that is placed around the carrier's forehead. Odu baskets are beautiful, strong and durable.

Social organization: Because of their small population, the Odu co-exist with the Khmu and the Thai people. Therefore, their social and cultural relationships are affected by these two groups. The Odu adopted their family names as do the Lao and Thai peoples. The history of Odu family lineages is not well-defined. The chief of the lineage plays an important role and is one who has great prestige and respect. The Odu live in small patriarchal families. Odu women do 'not have the right of inheritance. In the past, Odu men would live at the wife's home. The compulsory offering in the Odu wedding ceremony is squirrel meat, dried meat of the field rat, and salty dried fish.

Beliefs: The Odu believe that the souls of deceased become ghosts. The soul of the body lives in the cemetery, while the real soul becomes the soul of the house. This soul will stay in the house for one generation counted from the age of the oldest son to the youngest son. When all the sons have died, the family holds a ceremony to bid farewell and urge the soul of the house to return to world of the ancestors. The Odu place the altar of the soul in the corner of the second room of the house. The altar is simple and placed near the roof.

The Odu skillfully use the musical instruments of the Khmu and the Thai, including the flute, drum, gong, and pan-pipe. The Odu know all the lyrics of the Khmu and Thai folk songs and they also tell historical stories. The Odu enjoy games like khang playing, con (cloth ball) throwing, quay (spinning top) and o an quan.

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