Map: LIMCA – Leadership
Lao Iu Mien Community
The Iu Mien people of Oakland, California, have transplanted their traditional leadership structure to the American setting. The current structure was designed by a group of elders shortly after the Iu Mien arrived in the Bay Area as refugees. Their goal was to maintain unity in a new environment. As depicted in the map, the community founded a nonprofit organization known as the Lao Iu Mien Culture Association (LIMCA) with a thirteen-member board. LIMCA represents the Iu Mien people to the outside community, and functions as their center of gravity. LIMCA members are also focused on building a community center to further unify their people.
LIMCA members were key in establishing an informal leadership structure that mirrors the structure the Iu Mien people have lived within for centuries. The challenge was to adapt this structure to life in Oakland, where the Iu Mien do not have their own separate villages, but rather live scattered among people of other ethnicities. LIMCA leaders decided to divide the Iu Mien based on their home villages into eight districts of fifty to eighty families each. Each district has chosen one to four leaders. These twenty-one district leaders, together with four senior leaders, form the Oakland Iu Mien Community Council. The four senior leaders, including two members of LIMCA’s board, make up the central council. The council functions as a communication channel for the Iu Mien, who have no written language. The leaders are also responsible for settling disputes and helping community members resolve other problems. Those that cannot be settled by district leaders are brought to the central council.