Karenni culture and history fest is May 14

Published 9:03 am Thursday, May 12, 2016

By Daniel Mueller

For the Herald

The Karenni Community would like to invite the community to celebrate their festival (Kay Htoe Boe) with them on May 14 in the Austin High School Auditorium from 9 to 11 a.m. with music, dancing, culture and food.

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The Karenni history began thousands of years ago when they moved from Mongolia to create an independent state that in 1947 was incorporated into Burma, which is now called Myanmar. Burma is located between India and Thailand in Southeast Asia and is made up of seven major minority groups, who each inhabit a state: the Karen and Karenni are two of those major groups, who live here in Austin today. The Karenni people made their living mainly as farmers with the largest supply of tungsten in the world. In 1948, the leader of the Karenni State was assassinated setting off a civil war that has continued until present times. During this time, the government has taken measures to divide and move both the Karen and Karenni people off their land.

“I remember in 1996, the village elders telling us the Burmese military was coming and they told us to leave with only the clothes we were wearing,” said an Austin Karenni leader. This led many Karenni to become displaced in Burma while others escaped to Thailand where they began living in refugee camps. It was expected that this stay would be something temporary and that peace would be made and the Karenni would be able to return to their State. This did not happen and it was in 2009 that Karenni refugees had the opportunity to come to the United States.

“When I found out we were going to America, I was excited. I had never been to a city and I really hoped that this could help me to reach my goals,” stated one of the Karenni students.

After facing decades of hardships, struggles and challenges, the Karenni were able to find a new place where they could call home. Many of the Karenni living in Austin have lived in other cities previously, but have come to Austin because of its abundance of jobs, small town community and their ability to own houses and become a part of the community. The Karenni culture would like to invite you to come and learn about their culture and history.

There will be Karenni groups visiting Austin from throughout the nation and you can also come and cheer on the local Karenni soccer team as they play throughout the day at Todd Park.