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: some cases
caption: presentation of a red blanket to the Sema chief of Sakhai village across the frontier
medium: articles
location: Sakhai Sakhalu Nantaleik R. (Tizu R.)
person: Cantlie/ Keith
date: 1919-1920
form: private collection
refnum: loaned by Dr Audrey Cantlie
seealso: Cantlie Tour Diary 30.11.1919
text: The chief had been to France with the Labour Corps in World War 1 taking men of his village with him and had done well there. As a reward he was to be presented with a red blanket. Usually only dobashis were allowed to wear red blankets. I was in the Sema country and a day was fixed. About 30 Semas came with me from Sakhalu village in the British District. At the Tizu river which is the frontier they all sharpened their daos on stones in the river. All wore battle dress. Nobody spoke and the eyes of all, myself included, looked from side to side of the narrow jungle path searching for a possible ambush. Colonial officials have remarked especially in the Pacific Islands that the indigenous population on some islands has declined as the prohibition of war has taken the spice out of life and there is little to live for or talk about. I saw it revived on that day. I presented the blanket to the Chief, a fine looking man, and we all went back to the Tizu River without attack from any village and went on back to Sakhalu. There we sat in the dim firelight drinking rice and millet beer from mugs of sections of bamboo. I saw some objects floating in the rice beer and one scored my tongue. I found they were a particular kind of beetle eaten as a delicacy by Nagas so I contented myself with small sips of rice beer. I learned later that this village makes a potent rice beer from the first water poured through the warm millet and yeast plant fermenting it. I left the village to go some miles along a narrow path on the steep hill side to the Government travellers' rest house. The only lantern had such poor oil it gave little light. After half a mile the dobashi collapsed under the influence of the millet beer. With great difficulty I got him onto the pony and I took the lantern but it was the pony who guided us safely to the Rest House.