The Brao are a people living in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. The people we spoke to in Laos recall moving their villages to Laos at the time of the Vietnam War (American War). They packed everything they needed for their journey into bamboo baskets and began moving away from where they had lived their lives. A small population of Brao still live in Vietnam, and an unknown number in Cambodia. The people we visited for this project are those in Laos.
As in the past, the Brao are primarily an agricultural society. Their villages are now built along the roads that traverse the eastern side of Attapeu Province. Behind the houses, extensive farm land has been cultivated, and some of the Brao traditions are still practiced there.
The Brao believe in spirits that inhabit the land around them. The Forest Spirit and Mountain and River Spirit are invoked for protection and good harvests. At ceremonies such as Paman and Kamao, animal sacrifices are made for the spirits and food is shared with everyone in the village. At these times, music is played and songs are sung.
Until the Lao Independence in 1949, the Brao tattooed both men and women at approximately age 15. At this time, the practice became illegal, and those caught practicing it would be punished severely. The tattoo itself, as far as anyone knows, was to protect them from tigers. Tigers were a factor in how houses were built, the lyrics of traditional songs, and bedtime stories for children. There was a general fear that if one did not live well, the tigers would take them away.