On Memorial Day Weekend I attended a gathering of Jinghpaw (Kachin) at the Lakeview Conference Center nestled in serene Waxahachie, Texas. The event was the 15th Annual Kachin Family Camp sponsored by the Dallas/Fort Worth Kachin Baptist Church. There could not have been a better location since there was a lake and many amenities for family recreation. Though I did not attend all the factions throughout the weekend I did manage to get some interviews, photos and some video. It also became a cultural learning experience for me as well.
I’ve attended many different cultural and religious gatherings and this was one to behold indeed. Steeped in tradition and culture this event had a little something for everyone who attended. I was immediately stuck by the warmth of the people, colorful regalia and ceremony. There were plenty of smiles to go around and the warm Texas sun only complemented this spiritual and festive occasion. Though this had a religious theme there was also a sense of cultural pride that permeated this event.
According to several participants this was also a show of solidarity to their brothers and sisters in Kachin State on the outer reaches of Burma. Though politics was far removed from this event attendees were well aware of the dire situation poised to their relations on the other side of the world. With two fresh battalions of Burmese troops deployed to Dima near the Kachin Independence Army Battalion 9 the realities of war loomed in the hearts of many. And if there was a message for the people in Kachin State it would be that these Jinghpaw were praying in earnest for their people back home, I as well. But for the most part it was a very fun time in spite of some dark realities in Burma.
It was also a very educational experience for me since I was reminded more than once that the “Red Indian” was considered a relative of this noble tribe of Jinghpaw people. Red Indian was the term given to the indigenous populations of the Americas since it distinguished us from the Indian’s of India. At least the Asian culture got it right since we were not from India yet was given the name Indian by Christopher “Wrong-Way” Columbus. The Jinghpaw consider us (Native Americans) relatives because it was said we were the descendants of the eldest of 7 brothers, Shan Htoi Gam, within their oral tradition.
Their Manau Dance bares a resemblance to our traditional dance and their use of feathers, animal designs and totem poles also bore a striking resemblance to indigenous populations of the New World. I found their buffalo carvings and other drawings quite compelling as well. For an ole crusty Injun like me to be considered a relative was a humbling experience and I was deeply honored. There were many other similarities such as the jingle dress that were shared by Jinghpaw and North American Tribes. Looking into the faces of their chubby cheek babies I could see my nieces and nephews plus knowing we are born with Mongolian spots also brought the point home that there may be a very real biological connection. In any event the Kachin gathering was a most enriching experience for me and if given the opportunity I will attend again.
Your Devil’s Advocate