The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

typescript - memoir of time in the Naga Hills as a Deputy Commissioner, 1919-1920

caption: tour with Mills in Ao country
caption: elephant hunt
medium: articles
person: Mills
ethnicgroup: Ao
person: Cantlie/ Keith
date: 1919-1920
form: private collection
refnum: loaned by Dr Audrey Cantlie
text: Mills met me at Wokha in the Lhota country where there was a dispensary with a doctor in charge. We then went through the Ao country which lay entirely in Mukokchung subdivision. Mills talked in the Assamese lingua franca with his Ao dobashis all the time as we walked along acquiring knowledge of Ao custom, enabling him to write a book on them later. He was getting the villages near the main path to plant alder seeds, as it is a quick growing tree and would give them pleasant shade on their journeys. The great day was the hunt of a rogue elephant. It ate their crops and did not flee when they approached it beating kerosine tins and waving torches but charged them. So I had to proclaim it in the Assam Gazette as liable to be shot. I saw it in the rice field on the day before the hunt. Mills had a double barrelled 475 express rifle belonging to Government and he gave me an 8 bore single barrel smooth bore with a barrel much longer than the ordinary sporting gun. Probably it was a punt gun for wild duck. Mills sat up on one tree and I on another. My gun stock had 2 inches of rubber to lessen the recoil but I feared its discharge would break my jaw or collar bone and knock me backwards off my branch of the tree. All Ao men from nearby villages came, armed with spears and in ceremonial dress. A line of men went into the rice field beating drums and empty kerosine tins, driving the elephant towards a wood through which a path ran, leading to where Mills and I were sitting. Numbers of Aos climbed up the large trees on either side of the path to hurl spears into the sides of the elephant as he passed. The shouting came close to us and then suddenly ceased. Men came running to tell us that an Ao had taken too much rice beer (zu) and had stood in the path refusing to listen to cries to climb a tree but bent on defying the elephant in his drunken fit. The elephant charged and killed him, then turning round and fleeing far away. A sad procession went to the man's village. Mills and I delved deep into our pockets and gave quite a large sum to the widow.