The Dega population was once estimated at between 3 and 3.5 million during French colonialism. Today, our race has shrunk to just a few hundred thousand survivors. The Dega is made up of thirty-two tribes and languages. These tribes include Brou, Păcoh, Phuong, Katu, Čua, Jeh, Sêdang, Kayong, Hrê, Monơm, Halăng, Rengao, Bahnar, Mnông, Čil, Lat, Srë, Mă, Stiêng, Nop, Chrau, Jarai, Hroy, Rhadê, N.Roglai, S.Roglai, Chru, Cham, Rai, Biat, Ta oih, and RA. There are more than forty distinct and recognizable aboriginal groups living in the Central Highlands. Our languages are mainly descended from the Malayo-Polynesian and Mon-Khmer families.

More than two thousand years ago, our people were in possession of most of southern Indochina. These lands stretched from what is now the 17th parallel in northern Vietnam to the tip of Ca Mau in the south; and from the east coast to the mountains with their fertile valleys. In 192 AD the ethnic Vietnamese occupied the Red River Delta along the coast while the Cham people were found in the Hoanh Son Trail. At this time, the Vietnamese were under Chinese domination. When the Vietnamese gained their independence from the Chinese in 939 AD, their southern border would extend to the Hoanh Son mountain trail with Champa to the south.

As time went on, Chams migrated south and established their kingdom in 875 AD. at Indrapura in what is now Danang Province. But in 1069, the Vietnamese conquered and took these lands that stretched to the coastal plain north, which is the present city of Hue, from the Cham people. In 1306, Vietnamese control was extended to the Deo Hai Van region just above Danang. After their crushing defeat of Chams in 1471, the Vietnamese swept south to the coastal plain just south of Qui Nhon. Between 1611 and 1697, the remaining Chams were driven to Bien Hoa and into Cambodia. Ever since then, Annam's Vietnamese descendants have illegally occupied our coastal areas. We, the Dega people who lived on the coastal plain, were forced to join those who had lived in the mountain areas. During this period, however, they never ventured into our mountain retreat until after the French had colonized our territories.

The famous anthropologist Dr. ld C. Hickey stated in his book entitled Sons of the Mountains, "At no point did the Vietnamese in the pre-twentieth century establish hegemony over the highlands". Historically, the Vietnamese also believed that the mountains were home to evil spirits and the highland streams contained the dreaded nuoc doc (poisoned water) that caused malaria. They had a great fear of going to the Central Highlands and therefore we, the Dega people, remained insolated in the central highlands for a while. Here our people felt safe and we remained at peace for many generations and took care of our crops and livestock.

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