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: Ao Christians
medium: articles
ethnicgroup: Ao
person: Cantlie/ Keith
date: 1919-1920
form: private collection
refnum: loaned by Dr Audrey Cantlie
text: About one third of the Aos in my time were Christians who were expelled by the American missionaries if they took rice beer. These missionaries taught that their parents worshipped devils and so had no hope of getting to Heaven in the life to come. Mills devoted pages of his book of 1926 to criticism of such teaching. The sex morality of the Christians was less irregular than before as viewed through Western eyes and they were certainly cleaner. But Mills found he could always tell a Christian because he had lost the smiling gaiety of the Ao race. The Christian must present the appearance of meditating on higher things than the frivolities of this world. Ao pastors and school teachers trained at Impur village by the successors of Dr. and Mrs. Clark, who wrote, he an Ao- Naga Dictionary and she an Ao-Naga grammar, were more narrow minded than the Clarks and had failed to study ethnology or anthropology and did not control their pastors. On important occasions such as a festival to ensure a good crop there was a "genna" prohibiting anyone going outside the village. Ao pastors encouraged the Ao Christians to go out of the village to show contempt for heathen customs. They did not realise or care to comprehend adequately that the social structure of the village or tribe depended on these "pagan" customs. There was not much teaching of Anthropology when the American missionaries arrived in the Naga Hills in the closing years of the 19th century. Mr. and Mrs. Clark reduced the Ao language to writing with a dictionary and a grammar. It was the Chongli language. The other language was Mongsen, due to some second wave of immigration. But though the old religion was what used to be called Animism,- as spirits dwelt in many objects and among them some were malicious and caused sickness and calamity and had to be identified by a "medicine man" and a chicken or pig sacrificed,- there was no need to preach that all Aos of the previous generation were worshippers of devils and doomed to hell. The American missionaries did not know that when two basically different religions overlap much bewilderment and strife result. Dr.W.C.Smith of the Mission became a Professor of Anthropology at a University in California, publishing a book on the Aos in 1926 too late for Mills to see when Mills published his own book in that year. Ao pastors and school masters - about one third of the Aos were Christian - often delighted in going out of the village on days when it was "genna" to do so. It might be a "genna" day to ensure a good crop. The missionaries did not control them. In some places the Christians all left and founded a Christian village, so ending the social pressure.