In this interchange with other cultures, the Lahu Sheleh distinguished themselves from other Lahu sub-groups by maintaining a greater resistance to outside influences. Evidence of this resistance is visible in the daily practices and rituals of the villagers of Doi Mod.
Historically, the Lahu were hunters, foragers, and tillers of the soil. They grew rice and opium, initially as a medicine, later as a cash crop. They farmed in a pattern of shifting cultivation so that, as the soil nutrients were depleted every 5-8 years, they had to find new land for their crops, moving an entire village from one place to the next.
This semi-nomadic existence did not prevent the Lahu from trading in commodities, such as tea, with traveling merchants, especially those from China.
The Lahu Sheleh are one of many sub-groups of Lahu people. Study of their language (although there are no written records) has indicated that the Lahu are likely to have originated from the borderlands of Tibet and Burma, some thousand kilometers north of Thailand.
Over the centuries they have fanned out to the south and east; Lahu are now settled in Thailand, Burma, Laos, Yunnan Province in China, and Vietnam.