DegarThe Degar (referred to by French colonists as Montagnard) are the indigenous people of the central highlands of Vietnam. Originally denizens of the coastal areas of the region, they were driven to the previously uninhabited mountainous areas by invading Vietnamese and Cambodians beginning prior to the 9th century AD.
The Degar continued a culture based on farming, ranching and hunting in the central highlands region relatively unmolested until colonization of Indochina by the French began in the mid-1800s. The French government recognized separate status for the Degar, and demarcated a region in the highlands called Pays Montagnards du sud Indochinois. Due to difficulties in reaching the area, the de facto status of this land was semi-autonomous.
The Vietnam War saw the U.S. government employing the centuries-old animosity of the Degar toward the Vietnamese in recruiting tribesmen to fight alongside American troops. After the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam at the close of this war, the Vietnamese government retaliated against the tribes who had helped the U.S. These reprisals continue at present (2003) and are considered by many to fit the definition of genocide. The Degar culture and people are currently on a decline.