Kmhmu - Settlements



Kmhmu mountain villages range from 15 to 150 households, and from 100 to 1,000 people. The larger the village, the more prosperous it is likely to be; small villages usually have less territory available for farming and villagers are less able to accumulate wealth or material possessions. Often situated alongside a mountain stream that can provide drinking water, the village is surrounded by land used for swidden agriculture. In places, Kmhmu villages also have adjoining rain-fed or irrigated rice paddies; some now have tea plantations or groves of commercial trees. Houses are built on stilts or pilings, and are made from bamboo, wood, or both. A prosperous villager will have a house with wooden walls and a metal or wood-shingle roof; a poor villager will have a house with plaited bamboo walls and a thatched roof. The arrangement of houses in the village is determined by the contours of the terrain; the village chiefs home (or a communal men's house, where that tradition is preserved) is located near the center, along the path or road entering the village. A typical traditional house includes three chambers, each with a hearth: a front area for receiving guests, a central area for the family's cooking and eating, and a rear area where the ancestral altar is maintained. In urban areas of Laos or Thailand, or in North America and France, Kmhmu live in houses or apartments, often clustering together with other Kmhmu families when possible.

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