The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

typescript 'Village Organization Among the Central Nzemi Nagas', M.A. thesis by Ursula Betts

caption: chapter one - introduction
caption: outline of Central Nzemi economy
caption: export of chillies and cotton; markets, barter, coin and exchange
medium: theses
ethnicgroup: Nzemi
person: Betts/ U.V.
date: 1950
refnum: M.A. thesis, University College, London
note: footnotes indicated by boxes within square brackets
text: Chillies and short-staple cotton are grown in quantities greatly in excess of domestic requirements and the surplus is traded in markets frequented by plainsmen. These markets are situated on the railway-line and at the foot of the hills in Cachar District. Trading is carried on during December and January, when there is a leisure period between the end of the harvest and the clearing of jungle for next year's fields, and when the weather is most favourable for travel. From all (9) villages except those within a day's journey of a market organized bands of men and women laden with produce come down to trade. Some travel as much as a week's march. The produce is exchanged, often in a direct transaction without the medium of coin, for salt, the principal Nzemi import. Imports on a smaller scale are hoes, iron dishes, brass pots, earthenware pots, dao- blades, dried fish, beads and dyed cotton yarn. Mill cloth is not imported, clothing of Nzemi manufacture being preferred. Men sometimes detach themselves from these trading-bands and work as casual labour for railway or other contractors for ten days or a fortnight, rarely longer. The coin so obtained is either exchanged in the markets for salt or other imports, or is taken home to be used in payment of Government house-tax, the purchase of cattle, or in part-payment of bride-wealth. Before the introduction of coin cattle and pigs were used in the payment of bride-wealth, and if they had to be bought for the purpose, they were paid for in rice. Coin furnished a non-perishable medium of exchange which was at once more convenient and more portable, not only for the purchase of cattle for herding or slaughter, but as a substitute for them in the payment of bride-wealth. Nzemi wealth, however, is essentially in rice, and the exchange-value of coin in bride-wealth, the purchase of cattle, the hire of labour, and all other transactions, is based upon the rate at which coin is exchangeable for rice.