Photographs of Bill /bontemps182

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Bill Bontemps writes: "I believe I shot the group of Montagnards in An Khe when they were selling their 'peace pipes' and other items. I recall buying one of the pipes which I still have. Yes, I felt for this group when we were there and have wondered what happened to them.

Montagnards! The "Degar" race or "Sons of the Mountains"... Proud, honest, hard fighting indigenous peoples of the Central Highland of Vietnam.  These tribal members often worked fearlessly with Special Forces operations and SOGs as well as conventional U.S. combat units, both throughout the central highlands provinces and the eastern portions of Laos and Cambodia.  Montagnards hated the Communists who would deny them their freedoms of land ownership and their Christian religious preferences.  These people were loyal to the French during the French Indo-China war and then the United States during it's Vietnam involvement.  They continued fighting the Communists into the late 1980's with the Communist Vietnamese government ultimately putting a $400.00 per head "bounty" on Montagnard fighters. 

Finally, private US entity efforts and political lobbying brought the last large group of fighting men (412) to North Carolina.   They had been maintaining their fight from remote jungle areas just outside Vietnam for years, but were terribly undernourished and running out of weapons and ammunition.  Thanks and acknowledgement goes to the "Save The Montagnard People" movement website and organization for the information presented here. (Click here to visit their Web Site)    Quoting their site information on the immigration of Montagnard People to the United States:

US Montagnards

Since 1992, the US Montagnard community has grown from the aforementioned 412 to 3,000 through the Orderly Departure Program (ODP). Most were resettled in North Carolina while some went to Texas and Washington state.

The Montagnards are an intelligent and obviously very resilient people. US social workers, bosses, and those who know them, marvel at their unequaled work ethic, honesty, and determination to be good citizens. Some work at two and others hold three different jobs to make ends meet. Many are buying homes, own vehicles, and have extraordinary accomplishments to their credit. Atypical of other US immigrant cultures, they have no crime syndicates or gang activities. Their organizational affiliations relate strictly to cultural heritage, positive self-help causes, and human rights for their people in the Central Highlands.

 

Cultural Leveling - The Montagnard peoples in Vietnam today

As for the Montagnards struggling for survival in Vietnam, the future is very dark under communist Cultural Leveling. Unlike ethnic Vietnamese, Montagnards are denied land rights, courts, and equal education. Health care is provided only to young Montagnards in the labor force while the older people are denied treatment and die. Church services in population centers are allowed only in government approved parishes by government approved pastors; in rural areas, gatherings of any nature are forbidden and pastors are watched closely. The great forests of the Central Highlands are practically gone, harvested into destruction by an export hungry government. Humanitarian aid for Montagnards must be matched in areas of ethnic Vietnamese, diluting contributions intended solely for the Highlands. Desperately needed medicines that do reach Montagnards are often confiscated by Vietnamese police and sold to the highest bidder.