The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

manuscript notes made by W.G. Archer between 1946 & 1948, and miscellaneous papers and letters

caption: letter from W.G. Archer to D.C. about substitution of monkey heads for human heads
medium: notesletters
person: Kankai morung
ethnicgroup: Konyak
location: Wakching Kongan (Kongon) Chi (Chui) Anphang (Angpang) Chingkao Namsang Mom Shiong Hungphoi (Honfoi) Yungya (Yongya)
date: 15.6.1947
person: Archer/ W.G.
date: 1946-1948
refnum: 13:11
text: Office of the Subdivisional Officer Mokokchung.
text: dated Camp Wakching 15th June 1947
text: D.C.
text: In my memo no. 3662G dated 30th March 1947, I mentioned that Kongon spoke very bitterly of the results which attended the use of a monkey's head instead of a man's when they made their last log drum. 'Ten men died', they said 'and it was all due to that'. Since then there has been an important sequel and I am therefore submitting the following more detailed report.
text: The drum in question was made by the Kankai morung in November 1946 and since head-taking is forbidden amongst administered Konyak villages, they offered a monkey's head as a substitute. In the next four months 10 men died and a further 5 expired in April and early May. The morung members applied the leaf test to divine the cause of so many deaths and in each case they got the same reply - that the deaths were due to the drum not having received the customary human head. They were becoming desperate and when they heard that the Ang of Chui had received a head about the middle of May, they decided to sent 5 envoys and beseech him to spare a fragment so that further ills might be averted.
text: Chui itself is in the Konyak control area and the head in question had been sent to the Ang by the friendly village of Angpang. During May Angpang - which is in the tribal area - had taken three heads from Chingkao ( also in the tribal area ). The Ang of Chui's son had not yet secured full warrior status and the complimentary head was sent to him so that the boy might now be granted warriors' honours.
text: As I understand the position, war is not forbidden between Angpang and Chingkao and so far as I know villages in the control area are also not debarred from accepting presents of heads. None of these three villages therefore seem to have acted incorrectly. I am told however that administered villages on the other hand have been strictly forbidden to receive heads - unless they are permitted to do so by an officer (as for example on the return of a punitive column.) About 10 years ago Namsang were fined Rs. 320/- for accepting a human finger from Mom while a little later Honfoi were also fined Rs. 60/- for similarly receiving a fragment from that village. In addition 3 of their morung youths spent a month in jail.
text: When the Kongon envoys reached Chui, they found a fresh head hanging on the menhirs outside the Ang's house. They asked for a fragment but at first the Ang refused. They pleaded with him for a day and at the end he allowed them a piece of skull about one inch long as well as half a finger. The envoys then left for home but in order to reach their village they were forced to pass through various lands of Shiong and Wakching. The millet was sprouting at the time and by taking a piece of human head through these villages they broke a Konyak genna. This genna forbids the movement of a head through a village until the plants have grown tall. The breach of the genna endangers the whole harvest. At Wakching the party was intercepted by Chingai and four dobashis all of whom personally saw the human fragments. The dobashis warned them that their action was against Government orders and they were allowed to proceed. When the news reached Shiong and Wakching there was great anger and dismay as it seemed now the harvest would be doomed.
text: When the party reached Kongon, they broke a similar prohibition of their own village but this was atoned for by a day's genna in which all the morungs took part and by the sacrifice of a dog. The human fragments were then offered to the drum and the Kankai morung celebrated the occasion with a great dance and a sacrificial feast.
text: As far as Shiong and Wakching are concerned, I have met all the parties and Kongon have agreed to pay Rs. 200/- towards the cost of the necessary sacrifices. These will now be performed by Shiong and Wakching so that if possible the ill effect of the breach of genna may be averted.
text: So far as Government are concerned, the matter seems to me much more difficult. On the one hand, the Kongon action was clearly against Government orders and if the morung is not punished other villages in the administered area are likely to negotiate similar transactions. Moreover it is obviously only a short step from receiving of a captured head to commissioning a new one. At the same time, there are various extenuating circumstances. When a punitive column went to Yongya in 1942 some heads were taken and these were distributed among a number of Konyak administered villages if not under express orders of the S.D.O., at least with his full connivance. (In certain other cases distribution was even done by the S.D.O. personally). Since Kongon is of the same Sub-tribe as Yongya, they were debarred by Konyak law from receiving any of these heads and their present need was therefore correspondingly acute. Against this background it could be argued that Kongon have only done at their own initiative what many other Konyak villages have done with Government 'approval'. Moreover in the present case, there is no suggestion that Kongon incited a village to take a head. At the most they merely secured a tiny fragment from one which had already been taken in the natural course of war. Finally the long series of deaths had obviously driven them to despair. Bearing in mind all these circumstances, I think that a warning will perhaps be sufficient and for the future all administered villages may be told that no such heads may be accepted or negotiated without the S.D.O's prior approval.
text: Additional Deputy Commissioner, Mokokchung.
text: (copy of a letter from W.G. Archer)