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The Montagnard /mˈɒntɒnˈɑːrd/ are the indigenous peoples of the Central Highlands of Vietnam. The French term "Montagnard" signifies a mountain dweller, and is a carryover from the French colonial period in Vietnam. In Vietnamese, they are known by the term người Thượng (lit. 'highlanders')—this term now can also be applied to other minority ethnic groups in Vietnam or Người dân tộc thiểu số (lit. 'minority people'). Earlier they were referred to pejoratively as the mọi.[1] Sometimes the term degar is used for the group as well. Most of those living in America refer to themselves as Montagnards,[2] while those living in Vietnam refer to themselves by their individual tribe.

The Montagnards are most covered in English-language scholarship for their participation in the Vietnam War, where they were used by the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV), under command of the CIA, due to their close proximity to the Ho Chi Minh trail. Initially apathetic to either parties, Captain Petersen of the AATTV gained their support by spending prolonged periods in different villages in the region, embracing their culture. From that, Petersen began training Montagnards as part of the South Vietnamese Army, increasing to over a thousand by 1964.[3]

In 1967, the Viet Cong slaughtered 252 Montagnard in the village of Dak Son, home to 2,000 Highlanders, known as the Đắk Sơn massacre, in revenge for the Montagnard's support and allegiance with South Vietnam. In 1975, thousands of Montagnard fled to Cambodia after the fall of Saigon to the North Vietnamese Army, fearing that the new government would launch reprisals against them because they had aided the U.S. Army. The U.S. military resettled some Montagnard in the United States, pr

In 1967, the Viet Cong slaughtered 252 Montagnard in the village of Dak Son, home to 2,000 Highlanders, known as the Đắk Sơn massacre, in revenge for the Montagnard's support and allegiance with South Vietnam. In 1975, thousands of Montagnard fled to Cambodia after the fall of Saigon to the North Vietnamese Army, fearing that the new government would launch reprisals against them because they had aided the U.S. Army. The U.S. military resettled some Montagnard in the United States, primarily in North Carolina, but these evacuees numbered less than 2,000. In addition, the Vietnamese government has steadily displaced thousands of villagers from Vietnam's central highlands, to use the fertile land for coffee plantations.

Montagnard and Chinese officers from 1976 and 1979 were purged from the Vietnam People's Army.[8]

Vietnam's south and center h

Montagnard and Chinese officers from 1976 and 1979 were purged from the Vietnam People's Army.[8]

Vietnam's south and center highlands were subjected to systematic state backed settlement by ethnic Vietnamese Kinh people. The original peoples of the Central Highlands experienced ruin during and after the Vietnam War; in the worst cases, they were driven from their land and became refugees.[9]

In February 2001, thousands of Montagnards participated in mass protests demanding returns of ancestral lands and religious freedom. Other such protests took place in 2002, 2004, and 2008. The protests involved marches and sit ins. The nearby government officials reacted with military involvement and police arrests. Many Montagnards such as the Jarai were put on trial and imprisoned for years for their involvement in the protests. Some Montagnards residing in the United States also traveled to Washington, D.C. to protest and bring awareness to the Montagnards back in Vietnam.[10]

In 2003, the group gained admittance to the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization as the "Degar-Montagnards", but this membership was discontinued in 2016.[11]

Outside of southeast Asia, the largest community of Montagnards in the world is located in Greensboro, North Carolina, US.[2] Greensboro is also the home of several community and lobbying organizations, such as the Montagnard Foundation, Inc.