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"Romam ethnic group"

Submitted by: lanhnguyen Length of trip:
Trip taken: January 2008 No. of people on trip: 1 person

Locations visited:

Far East and Asia: Vietnam

Trip Features:
Culture: Ethnic/Religious, Architecture

lanhnguyen took this trip with her and also recommends this trip for those traveling with their:
> Grandkids
> Guy Friends
> Extended, large family
> Significant other/Spouse
> Immediate Family
> Group of friends

The cost category of this trip was:


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

Proper name: Romam.

Population: 286 people (1999 census).

Language: The Romam language belongs to Mon-Khmer group (of the Austro-Asiatic language family). Romam language is strongly influenced by the Khmer language and is close to languages spoken by some groups of the Sedang. Nowadays, the Romam speak the languages of other ethnic groups, as well as Vietnamese.

History: Elders say that the Romam have been living in this area for a long time. In the early 20th century, the population of this ethnic group was quite dense, distributed in 12 villages in which they live together with the Raglai. Today, Romam people live together in one village.

Production activities: The Romam live mainly from cultivation on widen fields. Sticky rice is grown as the main staple, mixed with ordinary rice, maize and corn. In preparing the land for planting, people use a knife to slash the vegetation, the axe to cut the trees, and then light fires to burn and clear the land. When spreading seeds they use two sharpened sticks to dig holes and a tube to hold the seeds. They use their hands to pluck rice off the rice ears. Hunting and gathering also play an important role in their economic life.

Fish catching in the streams is done by hand or by using baskets and cylindrical bamboo fish pots; poisonous leaves also prove very efficient for catching fish. Among the family's part-time jobs, those of cotton planting and weaving are the well-developed. Formerly, the Romam wove enough cloth to meet the needs of the whole family. In addition, the Romam also barter their woven goods for oil, salt and steel tools that they do not produce themselves.

Diet: Today, the custom of eating by hands is still prevalent. The Romam enjoy eating sticky rice which is cooked in a bamboo tube. Soup and chili-salt are also popular. They take water from underground locations and store it in dried gourds for drinking without boiling. On Tet holidays and festivals, the Romam drink pipe wine made from rice, corn and manioc.

Clothing: According to traditional customs, the Romam men wear loincloths, with the front flap hanging over their knees and back flap falling down to their calves. Women wear skirts, and some wear shirts with short sleeves. Both the skirt and loincloth are made from un-dyed coarse white hand-spun cotton. Women like wearing earrings made of ivory, bamboo or wood. According to the old custom, young people have four to six of their upper teeth filed.

Housing: The traditional Romam village is built in a certain arrangement. They live in long-houses on stilts which are built adjacent to or surround the communal house.. All the main doors of the house must face the communal house; there is a public space between the communal house and those of the villagers. Surrounding each Romam village is a protective fence. One house has many kitchens. A couple lives in one room, which has a partition to separate it from the other rooms and a separate kitchen. The central part of the house serves as a reception area for guests. In Le village, Mo Rai commune, Sa Thay district, Kon Turn province, each household lives in a large house, with wood partitions and a metal roof, built using government funds.

Transportation: The Romam transport goods using a basket with shoulder straps. The basket is decorated with blackened bamboo motifs. Romam men use a separate basket for carrying hunting tools and tools for cultivating widen fields. When they go to festivals, Romam women use a particular basket for carrying their clothing, shirts, and jeweler.

Social organization: The head of a Romam village is an old chief who is the eldest; he is elected by the villagers. Traditionally, a village is a closely-related community linked together by mutual obligations and benefits. Barter trade and marriages provide the Romam with relationships with other neighboring villages and ethnic groups. Romam social relationships are still affected by a long-standing matriarchal system, though nowadays it is making a quick transition to a patriarchal system.

Marriage: The typical Romam marriage takes place in two stages: engagement and the wedding ceremonies. The wedding is organized in a simple way, with only the first meal of bride and groom shared with villagers who come to wish the couple happiness. After that, following the matriarchal system, the couple lives with the wife's family for 4 or 5 years; then they live with the husband's family or follow a rotational pattern with both sides of the family. Divorce is rare.

Birth: Formerly, Romam women gave birth in a small house in the forest. When a baby is born, the umbilical cord is cut by a piece of bamboo or by a sharp leaf. Each village usually has one or two mid-wives who have experience assisting women as they give birth. Women must abstain from eating fatty food from the time of pregnancy until the child is three years old. Today, Romam women can give birth in their own homes. However, at this time, a stranger may not enter the house. If this rule is broken, the stranger will be kept in the house until the completion of the mother's period of abstention, and the child will be named after the name of the stranger.

Funerals: The Romam use drums to inform the community when someone has died. The deceased is placed in the front area of the house, with the head directed toward the house and in profile. Burial takes place one or two days after. The tomb is arranged in such a way that the faces of the dead are not turned toward the village. Some families bury their relatives in one tomb, normally two or three corpses in one tomb. In the Romam ceremony to abandon the tomb, there is a man and a woman each carrying a mask, and playing drums and dancing. The mask of the man has two horns and the mask of the woman has two canine teeth. After the burial ceremony, these masks will be left in the tomb.

The Romam are animists and believe in the existence of the human soul which, even after death, becomes a supernatural force, powerful and mysterious. The Romam worship these souls in order to secure for them a better life. One of the most important spirits venerated by the Romam is the Rice Spirit who is worshipped on the day that the Romam begin planting seeds, when young rice ears appear, and before harvest. These rights are done in hopes that the Rice Spirit will give them a plentiful harvest.

Festivals: Rituals follow the agricultural cycle and the cycle of life, with offerings of animals such as such as chickens, pigs or buffaloes. The biggest ceremony is carried out after the harvest. Each family in the village carries out the ceremony in rotation, with different households making offerings every few days, killing a pig, some chickens or even a buffalo and then inviting all the villagers to enjoy the feast. In addition to the new rice ceremony, Romam weddings for young couples and funeral rites are other important rituals.

Artistic activities: The Romam have a rich folk tradition that includes folk songs and love songs with alternating lyrics sung by young people and stories told by elders. Musical instruments, which include gongs, drum and flutes made of bamboo, are an important part of Romam folk entertainment.

This article written by Lanh Nguyen from Travel Agency in Vietnam

For original article, please visit:

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