All posts tagged: LAO America

Rising Advocacy: A Conversation with Laotian American National Alliance

It’s been a big summer for Southeast Asian America! Personally, I’m still on a creative high from the Lao American Writers Summit in Seattle back in June, and I am excited to hear about the amazing work that comes from some other Southeast Asian American-focused conferences this season. Namely, I’ve had my eye on the Southeast Asian American Studies Conference in Lowell, Massachusetts and the Laotian American National Alliance (LANA) Conference in Elgin, Illinois. Both of these conferences brought together Southeast Asian Americans who want to move and shake our communities forward. And I was devastated that I wasn’t able to make it to either of them. Lucky for me though, I was able to sit down and chat with LANA’s Executive Board Chair Dara Souvanna Phouma Stieglitz, as she traveled from the Jersey Shore to Elgin, IL for the LANA Conference. Dara is a passionate Lao American community builder, and you can watch me Laotian American National Alliance interview her on the LLOTP site. Thanks to the wonder of email, I was also able …

Dear Guru: What’s with the three-headed elephant symbol in Lao America?

This week’s burning cultural question comes in from Twitter: What’s the deal with the three-headed elephant symbol everywhere in Lao America?  Throughout Theravada Buddhist monarchies in Southeast Asia, the king was assumed to possess a high level of karma from previous existences in order to be born into such a high position. It was also thought that the king derived his semi-divine might as he was an incarnation of the Hindu god Indra. According to this mythology, Indra rides on the mythical multi-headed white elephant (sometimes having three or five heads), named Erawan (Airavata in Sanskrit). This elephant became a symbol for the might of the kingdom, known as Lane Xang (a million elephants). It continued as a unified kingdom until the death of Souriyavongsa in 1695, with no legitimate heir. Warring internal factions battled over who would be the next successor and ultimately divided the kingdom into three parts: Luang Prabang, Vientiane, and Champasak. Weakened, all three ultimately fell under Siamese control until French annexation in 1893, which reunified Laos. The symbol of the three-headed elephant continued …