The Hill Tribes of Vietnam

Hill Tribes of Vietnam Portrait Photography
Vietnam Hill Tribes woman
Vietnamese hill tribes
Hill tribes central vietnam
Vietnamese hill tribes
Hill tribes central Vietnam
Hill tribes northern vietnam
“Viet­namese Hill Tribes”  is some­times used to describe the eth­nic minor­i­ty groups in Viet­nam, most of which, live in the mountains.

Viet­nam is home to 54 offi­cial­ly rec­og­nized eth­nic groups. The largest eth­nic group is the “Kinh” or “Viet”, eth­nic group. The Kinh are what peo­ple typ­i­cal­ly con­sid­er “Viet­namese”. Though, all of the eth­nic groups in Viet­nam are Vietnamese.

The oth­er 53 eth­nic groups or “eth­nic minor­i­ty” groups most­ly live in the moun­tains of Cen­tral and North­ern Viet­nam. (The excep­tions to this are the Cham, Khmer, and Hoa eth­nic groups.) Because of this they have been referred to as “Viet­nam Hill Tribes”.

B'lôn Stieng Xtieng ethnic group Vietnam
B’lôn, 90, from the Stieng eth­nic group wears ivory ear­rings, a tra­di­tion once wide­spread in eth­nic minor­i­ty groups of Cen­tral Vietnam.


Mon­tag­nards” was a word used by the French dur­ing the French Colo­nial era, to refer to the indige­nous peo­ple of the Cen­tral High­lands of Viet­nam and sur­round­ing areas. Lit­er­al­ly trans­lat­ed it means “Moun­tain Dweller” or “Moun­tain Peo­ple”.  It’s not a word that is com­mon­ly used in Viet­nam today. The word “Mon­tag­nard” is how­ev­er still used by indige­nous peo­ple who have reset­tled in the US. The word “Degar” has also been used, most­ly out­side of Viet­nam, to describe indige­nous peo­ple of Cen­tral Viet­nam, and is syn­ony­mous with “Mon­tag­nard”.

Ma ethnic group vietnam
Brê & K’Lon from the Ma eth­nic group in the Cen­tral High­lands (Mon­tag­nards).

Hill Tribes of Vietnam

When refer­ring to the 54 eth­nic groups of Viet­nam I will usu­al­ly use “Eth­nic Groups” and not “Hill Tribes”, or when refer­ring to a spe­cif­ic per­son or group, use the name of the eth­nic group.  I’ve found that the names of the indi­vid­ual eth­nic groups in Viet­nam aren’t used enough, and instead, they are most­ly referred to as “eth­nic peo­ple” or “eth­nic minor­i­ty peo­ple”. This is fine, but I believe that using the spe­cif­ic names of the eth­nic groups, when applic­a­ble, is the start­ing point to a greater under­stand­ing of them.

Pu Peo Ethnic Group Vietnam
Nhiến, 80, & Là, 87, from the Pu Péo eth­nic group. With 903 peo­ple, the Pu Péo are the 4th small­est eth­nic group in Vietnam.

Ethnic Group Names

In Viet­nam, eth­nic minor­i­ty peo­ple will refer to them­selves as belong­ing to their spe­cif­ic eth­nic group. Many times, if there is a local “sub-group” they will use that name. This became quite clear to me one day when Trinh and I were trav­el­ing around Kon Tum in Cen­tral Viet­nam. When we asked a woman which eth­nic group she was, her reply was “Mơ Nâm”. We stopped at anoth­er vil­lage about an hour and a half dri­ve away. Two women we talked to referred to their eth­nic group as “Ta Tri”. Both the Mo Nam and Ta Tri are clas­si­fied as belong­ing to the Xo Dang Eth­nic group.

The 54 Ethnic Groups of Vietnam

There are 54 offi­cial­ly rec­og­nized eth­nic groups in Viet­nam with hun­dreds of small­er sub­groups. I spent con­sid­er­able time and com­piled a com­plete list of the 54 eth­nic groups of Viet­nam. The list is inter­ac­tive and can be sort­ed by pop­u­la­tion size, lan­guage group, name etc. So if you want to quick­ly see which are the small­est or largest eth­nic groups in Viet­nam it’s quite simple.

54 Ethnic Groups Vietnam List

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