Upper Ta Oi in Laos

Main Language
Largest Religion
Progress Gauge

Introduction / History

Most of the Ta Oi in Vietnam speak a dialect that is only partially mutually intelligible with the Ta Oi in Laos. One source says people from these two groups cannot understand each other "until speakers have had at least two weeks contact."

After the end of the U.S.-Vietnam War, a small number of Ta Oi families were allowed into the United States as refugees. Today, Ta Oi live in the Stockton, CA.; and Birmingham, NY, areas. Most remain either in Vietnam or Laos. The majority are concentrated in Ta-Oy District in the eastern part of Saravan Province towards the Vietnam border. Others live in Savannakhet and Kekong provinces. Since 1989 some Ta Oi have migrated down the mountains to the Bolaven Plateau.

What Are Their Lives Like?

Most of the Upper Ta Oi 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 they also grow maize, manioc, sweet potatoes, beans, and tobacco. Their productivity depends on the amount of rainfall they receive. The Upper Ta Oi tribe has 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 better crop yields. They also dig ponds and raise fish.

The Upper Ta Oi live in villages, or vel. Each village comprises 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 and bird feathers.

In Upper Ta Oi society, there is a clear distinction between the rich and the poor. A spirit of community prevails. The Upper Ta Oi are divided into several clans. They will not marry outside their tribe; however, some of the Upper Ta Oi 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 Upper Ta Oi live in a patrilineal society where the line of descent is traced through the males. The Upper Ta Oi highly respect maternal uncles. 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 communism, the status of Upper Ta Oi women was relatively low. Since that time, however, their status has become higher. 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 Upper Ta Oi. The villagers love to sing. According to their mood, they sing lullabies, love songs or classical songs. Their musical instruments include gongs, wind instruments and stringed instruments.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The Ta Oi, who practice a combination of animism and shamanism, are one of the most demon-oppressed groups in all of Laos. In 1890 one Frenchman recorded the experience of a Ta Oi animistic ritual (which has changed little even today): "In a clearing a certain number of them made a circle around a beer jar. To the bowl of the receptacle a lighted wax candle was fixed. Chickens with their throats cut were lying on the ground. An elder, with his head shaved close to the skull, made invocations to the spirits and in turn, the warriors passed in front of him, presenting their arms to him."

They perform a complex ritual after a Ta Oi person dies.... "A shaman is brought in to help the soul of the deceased find its way to the next life. Ta Oi women are sometimes buried in their traditional clothing, and with ornaments made of copper, silver, ivory or glass. Several years after the burial, the remains of the body are dug up, washed, decorated, and placed in a funeral house outside the fence of their former home."

What Are Their Needs?

Although there are now between 350 to 500 Ta Oi Christians (mostly Catholics) in Laos, most Ta Oi oppose the gospel. In Vietnam the Ta Oi are a completely unreached people group. A few years ago they attacked Bru evangelists who tried to bring the gospel to them, and drove them out of the area.

Prayer Points

Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Ta Oi to receive the gospel.

Pray that God would raise up Christians to focus on reaching all three ethnic groups among the Ta Oi minority.

Pray many strong churches would soon emerge in their midst.

Ask the Lord to heal the wounds of fear, suspicion of outsiders, and hatred that have kept the Ta Oi from knowing God.

Scripture Prayers for the Ta Oi, Upper in Laos.

Profile Source:   Joshua Project  

People Name General Ta Oi, Upper
People Name in Country Ta Oi, Upper
Natural Name Upper Ta Oi
Alternate Names Bo River Van Kieu; Kantua; Ta Oi; Ta Uat; Taoey; Ta-ôi; Taoih, Upper; Taoy; Upper Ta'oih; Upper Ta-Oy
Population this Country 51,000
Population all Countries 105,000
Total Countries 2
Indigenous Yes
Progress Scale 1
Unreached Yes
Frontier People Group No
GSEC 4  (per PeopleGroups.org)
Pioneer Workers Needed 1
People ID 15260
ROP3 Code 109837
ROP25 Code 307954
ROP25 Name Taoih / Ta Oi
Country Laos
Region Asia, Southeast
Continent Asia
10/40 Window Yes
Persecution Rank 21  (Open Doors top 50 rank, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
Location in Country Saravan, Savannakhet, and Xekong provinces, Ta-Oy district.   Source:  Faces of the Unreached in Laos, 1999
Country Laos
Region Asia, Southeast
Continent Asia
10/40 Window Yes
Persecution Rank 21  (Open Doors top 50 rank, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
Location in Country Saravan, Savannakhet, and Xekong provinces, Ta-Oy district..   Source:  Faces of the Unreached in Laos, 1999
Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions
Major Religion Percent
0.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 1.80 %)
2.00 %
Ethnic Religions
98.00 %
0.00 %
0.00 %
0.00 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
0.00 %
Primary Language Ta'oih, Upper (51,000 speakers)
Language Code tth   Ethnologue Listing
Language Written Yes   ScriptSource Listing
Total Languages 1
Primary Language Ta'oih, Upper (51,000 speakers)
Language Code tth   Ethnologue Listing
Total Languages 1
People Groups Speaking Ta'oih, Upper

Primary Language:  Ta'oih, Upper

Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Bible-Portions Yes  (2010)
Bible-New Testament No
Bible-Complete No
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Resource Type Resource Name Source
Audio Recordings Audio Bible teaching Global Recordings Network
General Language Learning Phrasebook They Need the Bible
General Scripture Earth Gospel resources links Scripture Earth
Photo Source Copyrighted © 2024  Asia Harvest  All rights reserved.  Used with permission
Map Source Anonymous  
Profile Source Joshua Project 
Data Sources Data is compiled from various sources. Learn more.

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