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: polygyny among the Semas despite christianity
medium: diaries
person: Kahutu senior
date: 16.10.1947
person: Archer/ Mildred
date: 9.7.1947-4.12.1947
text: 16 October. Mokokchung.
text: This evening Kahutu senior, the chief Sema interpreter, came to discuss the agenda of the next N.N.C. meeting.
text: In the course of his talk he told us how, although he was a Christian, he had married a second wife a few months ago. He was very happy with his first wife but she was finding the housework, combined with the field work, too heavy. They had decided that a second wife was necessary to supervise the cultivation. The first wife helped Kahutu choose a very pleasant girl, he married her and everything seemed to be going well.
text: Suddenly the first wife fell ill. Her legs swelled, she had fever and then shivering fits, her breathing was laboured. It looked as though she were going to die; there was no hope. 'It was obvious what was wrong,' said Kahutu. 'God was angry with me for marrying again.' The new wife agreed that this was the trouble and for the sake of her 'elder sister' she agreed that a divorce was necessary.
text: This was done. Kahutu killed a great bull, and feasted the whole village. The Bible was read, hymns were sung, and prayers offered. Almost immediately the first wife began to recover and she is now her old self again. Kahutu has managed to find three boys and a young girl, who are temporarily helping with the field-work. 'But it will be difficult' he says, 'when she marries.'
text: It is clear that encouraged by the example of other Christian Semas who have also taken second wives, Kahutu was prepared to risk breaking the Christian taboo, but he must obviously have sensed that church opinion condemned him. As soon as troubles developed, his sense of guilt dwarfed all rational (108) considerations and God had to be placated.