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Friday, October 18, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Vietnamese-American community hopes to open Spokane’s eyes to diversity of heritage

UPDATED: Sat., April 6, 2019, 5:26 p.m.

Lam Nguyen wears traditional men’s ceremonial clothing during Vietnamese Heritage Day at Genesis Event Center in Spokane on Saturday, April 6, 2019. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Lam Nguyen wears traditional men’s ceremonial clothing during Vietnamese Heritage Day at Genesis Event Center in Spokane on Saturday, April 6, 2019. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

When people think of Vietnamese culture, Thuy Nguyen wants more to come to mind than just the food.

“People are familiar with the food, but we wanted to give them a little bit more. Maybe in the future, people will think of the women generals who were riding elephants in the third century.”

The Spokane Vietnamese-American community celebrated its fifth annual Vietnamese Heritage Day on Saturday at the Genesis Convention Center, 9315 N. Nevada St. The series of dances, speeches, historical displays, performances and food aimed to introduce Spokane and give thanks to the Vietnamese founding fathers, said Nguyen, an event organizer. The event was free and open to the public.

“Every year we have this renewed honor for the vets of the Vietnam War, to acknowledge Vietnamese American contribution to Spokane economy and cultural fabric and to recognize the yellow flag with three red stripes,” Nguyen said, referring to the flag that represents Vietnamese people’s wish to develop independence, freedom and democracy.

The event was funded mostly by a $6,500 cultural fund grant from the city of Spokane and private donors.

The Vietnamese American Senior Association hosted the event, but Nguyen said the group’s name might change to the Vietnamese American Friendship Association to be more age inclusive.

People of all ages come to the event, including Vietnam veteran Hubert Smith, 77.

Smith served in the U.S. Army, including two tours in Vietnam as a project officer and member of the flight school for the UH-1H helicopter. He also provided helicopter support to troops in the 1967 Battle of Dak To, he said.

“It was a bad experience, but it was a good experience,” said Smith, who has fond memories of working alongside Vietnamese citizens.

“These people have a wonderful heritage,” he said. “I want to support their heritage because they virtually lost it. We really abandoned them.”

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