The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

typescript - J.H. Hutton tour diaries in the Naga Hills

caption: dispute over Mao oath-taking; cholera and smallpox oaths; Saproma khel of Pununamai try to take a false oath on 50 lives
medium: tours
person: Salo/ of MaoGepoSaproma khel/ Pununamai
ethnicgroup: Angami <MaoAngami <Memi
location: Mao Zhakhama (Jakhama) Kohima Phosemei (Pununamai) Razama
date: 23.7.1920-24.7.1920
person: Hutton/ J.H.
date: 20.7.1920-24.7.1920
person: Pitt Rivers Museum Archive, Oxford
refnum: Hutton Ms. Box 2
text: 23rd
text: To Jakhama. There had been the usual bitterness between the Mao lambus and the Kohima dobashis about the oath to be put to Mao and before leaving a deputation of Mao lambus and gaonburas came up to protest against the attitude of my dobashis and myself in the matter of the Mao oath. I said that if Salo (a Mao schoolmaster who was formerly a dobashi at Kohima) would come forward and declare that there was no such oath in Mao as the one on cholera, which we usually insist on, I would believe his word. They tried to get round this, but though Salo was outside, and though they went away saying they would bring him, yet they did not do so. I believe that there is this much to say for their attitude - that the cholera and smallpox oaths are not the ones normally used by the Memis among one another, on the other hand the oath normally used by them is capable of a very minute alteration in the wording which only the Memi themselves can detect and which vitiates the whole oath. As an Angami cannot possibly tell whether the oath is being made of none effect or not he naturally refuses to hear oaths in that form, and as Gepo pointed out if once you admit an oath in the form that may mean nothing at all and you cannot tell whether it does so or not, the whole of Mao will start to lay claim to the neighbouring lands in the Naga Hills and positively loot their neighbours. However trustworthy the Manipur State Lambus may be now, everyone knows how corrupt they have been, and under circumstances which practically defy detection and which probably entail no serious consequences even in case of detection I do not think any Naga of any tribe could be trusted not to back his own people. At this particular session at Mao the Saproma Khel of Pununamai offered to take oath on 50 lives that certain land was theirs. The claim was almost certainly false, the old boundaries were found, and in the end they heard the Angami oath on 7 lives, after refusing to take an oath even on one life by the "cholera" form of oath, though this form which is used in Razama is quite certainly a Mao form. I do not myself think there is the least doubt but that the Pununamai people intended, if allowed to take oath, to take it in the form that turns the whole matter to a jest and that they knew their own lambus would not give them away where an Angami village was on the other side.
text: 24th
text: To Kohima.