The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

manuscript - Christoph von Furer-Haimendorf, Naga diary one

caption: adoption and inheritance rules
medium: diaries
person: Chinyang
ethnicgroup: Konyak
location: Wakching
date: 15.8.1936
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 2.6.1936-11.7.1936
note: translated from german by Dr Ruth Barnes
person: School of Oriental and African Studies Library, London
text: In the afternoon I asked the gaonbura, Chinyang, about adoption and inheritance rules. The latter are remarkably simple. When the parents of a child die it is taken in and raised by a brother or other close relative of the father. (190) If it is a son the foster father builds a house for him when he gets married and may also give him a field to work on and harvest. If it is a girl the foster father gets the bride price. If the foster father has no son of his own the adopted son becomes his heir and when he marries he stays in his adopted father's house. Adoption also occurs when the parents of a child are still alive. Sometimes a wealthy childless man may adopt a boy as his own and then will leave him all his belongings as he would his own son. The adopted son must be from his own clan however, if not from his own lineage. The rights the clan has over the individual property of its members must not be compromised.
text: If a man adopts a boy but then still has a son of his own the adopted son loses the right to inheritance but generally he will be given the lifetime use of a few fields and the foster father will build him a house when he gets married. The position of the adopted son then is in general the same as that of a younger brother. (191) As long as a man has male relatives in his own lineage a foster son from another lineage though of the same clan may not inherit property for permanent ownership. If a man has several sons the oldest stays in the house and inherits the entire property. Houses are built for the younger sons when they get married and they receive fields for their use. These fields however will never become their property and they may not do as they wish with them without the older brother's consent. The oldest brother pays their bride price and gives them tools and household articles when they establish their own homes. Even during his lifetime, a father cannot circumvent these inheritance rules and to 'rationes inter vivos' the younger sons are not allowed. That means that the fields presented never become their actual property. They only have the right to use them.
text: Spontaneously Chinyang offered the following reason. "Gha-wang gave the first born son as heir to the parents therefore he must receive everything". Following my question Chinyang agreed that the following sons also come from Gha-wang but this was irrelevant as long as the oldest was alive.