The country and culture I would like to focus on is Myanmar (also commonly referred to by the informal "Burma" in the United States) primarily because there is a significant population of Burmese refugees who live near Southport and Greenwood, IN. While there was no total provided for the number of immigrants on the migrationpolicy.org website (it appears Myanmar might be considered as “Other Southeastern Asia” on this website), the Burmese Community Institute of America states that, as of 2015, 19,960 Burmese reside Indiana. Of those, 13,896 live in Indianapolis (1). Due to the size of this population, k16 educators should be aware of the Burmese culture within Indiana.
Languages & Demographics
Of the total number of Myanmarese refugees in Indianapolis, the largest percentage of them identity as Chin. Chin are one of the eight ethnic minority groups in Myanmar, and 85% of the total Burmese in Indiana are Chin (1). The official language of Myanmar is Burmese, a member of the Sino-Tibetan language family.
Language support for Burmese refugees in Indianapolis is provided by a partnership between Perry Township Schools, Catholic Charities, Exodus International, Burmese-American Community Initiative (BACI), Immigrant Welcome Center, and Chin Community of Indiana Chin Center. However, additional language support is needed for adult Myanmarese who wish to learn English (5).
History of Political Strife & Signs of Hope
Burma was a British colony until gaining independence in 1948 (2). A fragile democracy emerged but General Ne Win staged a military coup in 1962 after serving two years as the country's prime minister. Under the rule of a military junta, Myanmar has experienced decades-long civil war and minority oppression. Many of the Burmese refugees have fled persecution. On March 30, 2016, a civilian led government was elected although the military generals still hold significant power (3). President Htin Kyaw is now the elected head of Myanmar although she has many significant challenges to contend with.
January 4: Independence Day
February 20: Chin National Day (4)
Chin National Day, 2017 in Indianapolis
Other Interesting Facts
The Burmese-American Community Initiative (BACI) recently organized the The U.S.-Myanmar Engagement Conference. This conference, held at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis. The event was a "one-day conference to promote substantive discussions regarding the current economic and political situation in Burma/Myanmar and create partnerships between participants" (6). The U.S.-Myanmar Engagement Conference featured a video keynote from Nobel Laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and highlighted the policy work of the BACI in generating lasting democratic reforms for Myanmar from Indianapolis.
The area of Indianapolis in which the Chin community resides is commonly referred to as "Chindianapolis" (7).
Since the recent transition to civilian rule, tourist visits to Myanmar have also started to increase. Travelers can take in the sights of Myanmar for an average of $50 US/ day during the peak travel season between December to February (8).