The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

typescript 'Journey to Nagaland', by Mildred Archer. An account of six months spent in the Naga Hills in 1947

caption: walk to Mokokchung
caption: village headmen
medium: diaries
person: Damant
ethnicgroup: Ao
date: 12.7.1947
person: Archer/ Mildred
date: 9.7.1947-4.12.1947
text: 12 July. Chungtia.
text: We are now over the first two mountain ranges and I am exploring more and more Ao villages. As we trudge up the hills, the village headmen, with sometimes the village teacher and (5) pastor, come out to welcome us with rice beer or tea. The headmen look both gay and solemn in their great scarlet cloaks, the insignia of their office presented to them by Government. As we arrive they usher us to a little seat - some bracken piled on a flat stone or a rough bench made of branches and spread with a red cloth. They often bring a gift of a chicken in a tiny bamboo cage, a pineapple or a few eggs strung together in a little bamboo net. When we are seated they bring us out an old bottle full of rice beer and hand us a drink in a chipped enamel mug.
text: This custom of meeting the district officer as he approaches the village has now become a mere formality of politeness and hospitality, but seventy years ago when head-hunting was common throughout the Naga Hills it was a necessary precaution. The presence of the headman showed that the village was friendly, but if he was absent it was likely that the village was hostile. Damant in 1879 neglected this precaution and was killed by the village of Khonoma. Now the meeting is an excuse for a friendly chat about the crops and any village problems that have arisen. Anecdotes about previous district officers are recalled or someone describes how and he and some friends captured or killed a Jap.
text: Often the headmen join the line of march and accompany us to the rest house where Bill gives them each a tot of Government rum. Then the chat starts again and they ask for a permit to shoot deer or wild elephants that are eating the crops. Someone wants a gun repaired, a license or some ammunition. A young schoolmaster asks for a substitute as he is about to go to Jorhat in Assam for a training course, an old woman is produced who wants exemption from house tax as she has no one to support her.