The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

letter from E.T.D. Lambert to J.H. Hutton

caption: in Burma; report on Sema coolies; earrings for Balfour; further thoughts on xylophones and canoes; description of Rangpangs; Chang dao boxes; Margherita Political Jemedar
medium: letters
person: Hutton/ J.H.BullIngahuNikiyeHetoiLeadhamBalfour
person: Lambert/ E.T.D.
date: 6.12.1935
person: Pitt Rivers Museum Archive, Oxford
refnum: Hutton Ms. Box 335-38
text: Burma,
text: 6/12/1935
text: Dear Dr Hutton,
text: Just a line to say that everything is going as well almost as can be expected. Bull and I are getting on quite well together though he is just a little too bloodthirsty and wants to beat people up. However I have succeeded in restraining him so far from opening fire because coolies are a little dilatory! We are now busy establishing the post on Point X, Mu Burr just over the Patkoi and between it and the Chindwin. We come back once more into Assam before the final spurt for our base in Burma. The Sema coolies have been doing very well except for the lot round the Dikhu - they haven't got the stamina and have cracked rather badly. None of the heathen have been at all unfit! We have been held up now for two days searching for water near the peak. It has only just been found though we have been here since the 2nd. The scouts in this respect have been very useful. I have INAGHU with me. He is the brother of NIKIYE. HETOI wanted to come but home affairs held him too much. The most difficult part of our trip seems to almost over now as when we have reached TARO, one base on the Chindwin we will be able to rely entirely on our own transport. The Burma interpreters, two of them duly arrived, a pair of Rangpang scallywags from an unadministered Burma village. Neither could speak any language beyond Rangpang and a little Singpho and they bore a letter from Leadham saying I would have to pay them Rs 50/- a month and rations. I just blew-up. The first time on this tour, except when the Kothing coolies threatened to bolt! I have sent them home with thanks and we shall have to try and get through without anybody. I am trying to get one of my old administered Rangpang friends to come with me but he doesn't seem at all keen and there's nobody else. You've no idea how I've been let down by the Margherita Political Jemedar and his son. He did sweet damn all and told me at least 500 lies as to what he had done. We have been able to get through so far, only by marching late into the night. During the last fortnight we haven't got the last coolie into camp before dark and on one occasion I got in at the tail end at 8 p.m. All because of the P.J.'s lies. The Naga seem to hate him and I have got enough evidence now to get him sacked. A thing I tried to do years ago. I've got some of those earrings you were keen on getting. They are worn by BORDURIAS, NAMSANGS and CHANGYAKS. The place is stiff with them! I shall give them to BALFOUR in person as they might get lost on their way to you now as I don't know if you have yet left NOWGONG. Your theory about the xylophones and canoes. I wonder how a discovery of mine effects it. I found some drums which were just ordinary hollow trees dragged up and no attempt made to carve them in any way. In another group of villages I found these hollow trees with an attempt made to carve them at either end. By hollow tree, I mean the natural hollow tree as it is found in the fields. Hollowed by nature. The latest thing is people this way wearing Chang dao boxes and looking for all the world like Hakchang. The Rangpangs strike me more and more as being very like Aos. They count the same and the word for house is "YIM" the Ao word for village! Their customs though differ very widely and they have no morung system nor can they ever remember having one. They migrated up the right hand of the Chindwin between it and the Patkoi and are only now gradually pushing over into the Assam valley. Land here is very much greater than the needs of the people. The villages are very small and they are only cultivating some very small patches in the jungle though the land is excellent. There is a rumour that the Sadiya lot are to be taught T.R.C. [terraced rice cultivation] but it would be much more advisable to teach them how to grow good jhum crops first and how to grow millet on the higher hills. The Rangpangs seem to have fallen more than ever under the influence of the Singphos but this is bound to continue as long as ever they are ruled from Margherita by that gentleman the Political Jemedar whose kotokis are all plainsmen who have never been further than the Outpost on the Tirap River and don't know one tribe from the other or any of the local languages! The P.J. too eats all the house-tax commission which seems most unfair to the local chiefs. The chieftainship is hereditary. I wonder these people haven't revolted years ago. They have been told they can buy as much opium as they like from across the frontier and they are the people who should be actually giving information and stopping the smuggling. What the poor devils were ever taken over for, the Lord alone knows.
text: E.T.D. Lambert