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: Yimchungr Nagas attitude to head-hunting
medium: notes
person: Hutton
ethnicgroup: Yimchungr
location: Kuthurr Yimtsong-Awenrr (Yimchungr Anrr) Ayepongr Cheshorr Chashirr (Chasherr)
person: Archer/ W.G.
date: 1946-1948
refnum: 16:2
seealso: Hutton, 'Diaries' p.64
text: Even as regards head-hunting, the Yimchungr seem now to have developed a tepid and listlessness and I was reminded of Dr. Hutton's remark 'I fancy the only proper way of ending head- hunting, if it is to be ended, is by very gradually limiting its scope, until it gets rarer and rarer and the taste for it dies a natural death' (64 'Diaries'). Out of the six villages, only Kuthurr and Yimchungr Anrr still have heads on the head trees and all of these are more than five years old. It is now 20 years since Ayepongr lost 4 heads to Cheshorr and since then it has been continually at peace. Even in the case of Cheshorr, the largest and most powerful Yimchungr village on the Sema side, it is 8 years since actual hostilities occured. The last head to be lost was that of the greatest warrior in the village. He had gone with only one companion to bring fish from the [] river. As they were struggling up the hillside each loaded with a huge basket, the young headman of Chasherr sprang out on them, killed the main warrior, and put the other to flight. This incident seems to have acquired an inflated importance as if it were the last quivering of a dying tradition. Although it took place 8 years ago and there is no longer a state of active war between these 2 villages, peace has not yet been made between them. The incident was still being talked about. I was shown the dead man's house. His brother and nephews alleged that the head had been not merely taken but dishonoured. They declared, Chasherr men had cut out the tongue and pinned it to the forehead and had also extracted the penis and thrust it up a nostril. I found it quite impossible to discover the actual fact for while the people of Chasherr gloried in the capture they indignantly denied the desecration. What seemed to me significant was that Cheshorr should have allowed this incident to fizzle out in idle chatter, for only a village no longer keenly interested in head-taking could have stomached such a finale.