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: life in Mokokchung
caption: training of interpreters
medium: diaries
person: KahutuZehoviAohukyuRivhemoSakhalu/ of SakhaluPawseyPilow/ of PangshaShoizhu
location: Mokokchung
date: 31.7.1947
person: Archer/ Mildred
date: 9.7.1947-4.12.1947
text: But almost more important than the servants are the young interpreters in their scarlet waistcoats and cloaks. They are still under training and are therefore living in the compound. When any villagers come to the house, an interpreter of the same tribe escorts them to Bill. As there are so many Naga tongues it is not possible for the S.D.O. to learn them and all discussions are carried on through the medium of (26) Naga-Assamese. Bill speaks in this and his words are then explained in the tribal language by the interpreters. After a few years with the S.D.O., these young interpreters leave the compound and live in the interpreters' houses attached to the office. Here they decide cases under tribal law and from there they are sent out into the villages to settle disputes on the spot. They are really a kind of judicial service and are greatly respected in the villages. Every tribe and subdivision of a tribe has its own interpreters and every interest is represented.
text: About twelve of these young interpreters live in the compound, but my favourites are Kahutu, Zehovi, Aohukyu and Rivhemo. Kahutu is a fine tall slim Sema youth who wears a smart wine-red polo jersey knitted in a lacey stitch. He is the nephew of Sakhalu, the grand old man who founded Sakhalu village and had eight wives and forty children. Kahutu has a great deal of pride, poise, confidence and common sense. He was one of the two Nagas who stayed with Mr. Pawsey, the Deputy Commissioner of Kohima, throughout the siege in 1944 and he stood all the bombing and shelling without turning a hair. He drives a jeep and is a dashing footballer.
text: Zehovi, another Sema, is rather older, but as his village has only just been brought into the administered area he has only just been appointed. He loves shooting and is very useful at producing pigeons and quails for our dinner. He was a 'scout' for the British during the war and is full of stories about his encounters with the Japs and the way he got through their lines. He is being given a reward by Government as on one occasion he saw a lorry full of British troops crash down a hillside into a river. Zehovi got hold of another Naga and between them they rescued several B.O.Rs from the river where they were pinned under the lorry. But the rest were drowned.
text: Aohukyu is an Yimchungr, the only one in the compound. He (27) is from one of the wilder tribes on the border. He has a charming smile and when we tease him, his whole face puckers up. He has just brought some loudly striped pyjama material for a shirt.
text: Rivhemo is a neat and trim Lhota and looks very like an English schoolboy in his shirt and shorts. He frequently breaks into hymns and the other day I heard him whistling 'Holy Night', and 'Onward Christian Soldiers'.
text: The training of an interpreter starts early. Small boys of eight or nine, who come of respected families, are brought in to live in the S.D.O's compound. They live in a kind of morung, like those in the villages. They are sent to school, they learn Assamese and they meet Nagas of all types and tribes who are continually visiting the S.D.O. In this way they learn, without knowing it, the working of the administrative machine. The system reminds me of medieval pages and their education at the nobleman's castle. One of these small boys, Pilow, has an expression of great innocence which always seems to veil a schoolboy's wickedness. He is a sort of hostage from Pangsha, the Kalyo Kengu headhunting village, which has been giving trouble. On pay-day all the small boys come crowding into the sitting room and when they drawn their money, they sometimes stay and look at our photos and pictures. Every few months they clean the daos and spears. They did it this morning and as I looked out of the window I saw them careering around the lawn doing a mock war dance. As soon as they saw me looking they quietly settled down to scrubbing the steel as if war and its delights had never entered their young minds. Every evening the interpreters and small boys come up to our lawn and have a football match. The pitch has its limitations. On two sides there is, of course, the hedge, concealing a steep drop to the vegetable garden, over which the ball is always soaring. On the other side are the sweet-pea sticks of our herbaceous border which are also in (28) continual jeopardy. A cypress juts out into the pitch and skilful dribbling is necessary to circumvent it. Shoizhu is the star turn. He has a clownish style and whenever he kicks a ball everyone dies with laughter. But the whole compound loves these football matches and even when it is pouring with rain they come and play stark naked.