Siskiyou Co. town hall looks to create understanding between cultures

YREKA, Calif. — A collaboration of cultures can be difficult to combine at first. Over the past few years, two different cultures have struggled to understand each other. Hmong Americans, a fairly new group in Siskiyou County, have been trying to merge into American culture while still retaining their own.

Several incidences involving a misunderstanding between law enforcement and Hmong has caused some slight rifts, at one point, a lawsuit was filed against the sheriff’s office.

Recently though, the county and Hmong community leaders have been trying to work together to resolve these misunderstandings with a series of town halls as the next step in the process.

“I have to say that because we are very new to the community, it is a basic matter of adaptation,” said WaMeng “Peter” Thao, a Hmong American resident. “Meeting a diverse or different group of people.”

For Hmong-American residents like Thao, that adaptation has been hard.

Thao says Hmong-American’s have only been in the county for about five years, introducing diversity into an otherwise homogeneous area.

“When you see someone who is outside of that minority within your community, then it would be like a culture shock, language shock,” he said. “Sort of that nature.”

Initially, there was a clash of cultures between the Hmong community and the county. However, both sides are coming together to resolve these issues through town hall meetings.

“What we’re really trying to do out of not only this town hall but our monthly meetings with the Hmong American community is just to foster a closer working relationship to give our fellow citizens a lot of information,” said Sheriff Jon Lopey.

To the Hmong, it’s a chance to share their culture and bring understanding to something foreign.

“We would like for them to understand that this our culture for many years,” said Thao. “This is what we do in our livelihood.”

For the county, it’s a chance to explain how the community can do that without breaking any laws.

“We want to formulate those bonds so that we collaborate and cooperate and communicate better,” said Sheriff Lopey.

The way Thao sees it, it’s an exciting look at what’s to come for the community.

“This is the beginning of our milestone journey to make Siskiyou County a better community and a more diverse community for everyone to live.”

The meeting is set to take place tomorrow at 6 p.m at the Montague Community Hall in Montague. All members of the public are invited to attend.

NBC5 News Reporter Miles Furuichi graduated from Chapman University with degrees in English and Journalism. He received post graduate experience in Los Angeles in photojournalism and commercial photography. He also spent time in Dublin, Ireland working in print journalism and advertising.

Miles is a Rogue Valley native, raised in Ashland. He enjoys hiking, mountain biking and photography.

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