The Mnong ethnic minority, also called Bru Dang, Preh, Ger, Nong, Prang, PJam, Kuyenh, Chil Bu Nor, M’Nong Bu Dang are concentrated in the southern parts of Dak Lak and Dak Nong provinces, and parts of Lam Dong and Binh Phuoc provinces.
Although different branches live in different areas, the M’nong have maintained a common language, common customs, and common cultural identity.
The M’Nong live in houses built on stilts or level with the ground. Each mnong village usually has dozens of households. The village chief plays a major role in village life. They like to drink alcohol from jars with pipes and smoke tobacco threads rolled in leaves. Matriarchy is observed and the children take the family name of their mother. The wife holds the key position in the household.
The M’nong believe in supernatural powers which influence human life. The spirits of their ancestors protect the children; the kitchen genie keeps fire and food; the rice and crop genie ensures a bumper harvest; and the thunder genie punishes people if they violate traditional norms such as the taboo against incest. They have many rituals for worshiping these genies as well as maturation, wedding, and longevity ceremonies. The M’nong have strict rules governing community relations, ownership, marriage, and gender relations.
The M’Nong like to have many children, especially daughters. One year after the birth of a child, the baby is given a name. At funerals, people sing, and beat gongs and drums at the side of the coffin. After placing the coffin in the grave, they cover it with plants, tree boughs, and leaves before filling the grave with earth. After seven days, the family holds a rite which completes the mourning process. The M’Nong believe in the existence of many spirits which are related to their life. One such spirit is Mother Rice who has a special role.
Men generally wear loincloths and leave their upper torsos naked. Women wear skirts which fall to their ankles. Dark indigo loincloths, skirts, and vests are decorated with red-coloured designs.
M’nong rules say villagers must respect and help elderly people, the patriarch, and hamlet contributors. The whole village will help a family organize a funeral and show deep sorrow for the dead. Villagers help each other in production, such as an early harvest to avoid a natural disaster. Field owners will give the helpers baskets of rice, corn, or vegetables.
The M’Nong use the slash-and-burn method of farming. The M’Nong in Ban Don are well known for their elephant hunting and domestication. Women handle the weaving of cotton cloth, while the men work on basketry.