The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

published - 'Report of the Survey Operations in the Naga Hills 1875-1876' by Lt. R.G. Woodthorpe

caption: difficulty of passing through hostile Naga villages in Sema country
medium: tours
person: Tulloch
ethnicgroup: Sema
location: Shichemi (Chichimi) Lukobomi Lumitsami (Limitsami)
date: 20.2.1876-22.2.1876
person: Woodthorpe/ R.G.
date: 1875-1876
text: 32. On the 20th, we marched to Ungma, and the next day, turning eastward and leaving the main range, we proceeded along the low watershed by a narrow and difficult track, only used as a war-path between the Hatigorias, whom we were leaving, and their Sema (described in Report 1873-74) foes, whom we were approaching. Early on the 21st, we came in sight of a cluster of five villages, the nearest being Limitsami. We were seen by the Nagas as we passed over the crest of a hill about a mile from the village, and they at once commenced yelling to each other; and as we went on we saw them all turning out in full war-dress, lining the approaches to the village and occupying every coign of vantage, such as clumps of bamboos, rocks, thick tufts of long grass, etc., etc., till about 300 men had collected. One of our interpreters went forward waving a green bough, and shouted to them till he was hoarse; and at last a few, putting down their shields and spears, came down to where we were halted, and, after a short conversation, in which we endeavoured to convince them of our peaceful intentions, they went back, returning with rice, fowls, etc. They said they did not wish us to go through their village, as we should frighten the women, and we expressed our readiness to send the coolies round under the village, if there was a road. But it soon appeared that the only way they wished us to go was back again, no road existing round the village. As it was absolutely necessary, for the success of our work, that we should visit a point the road to which lay through three of these villages, I told them that if they could not make up their minds to show us the way, we should have to find it ourselves, and I returned them everything they had brought down. We gave them half-an-hour to come to a decision, while we got the coolies well up and safely guarded, and then, as they refused to come down and converse any more, only resuming their weapons and retiring to their old standpoint, Colonel Tulloch ordered his men to advance in skirmishing order up the hill. The Nagas fell back before our steady advance, and we gained the village. Here we all halted, to allow the Nagas another opportunity of coming to terms, as they were all collected in the lower part of the village. At last, seeing that we were not apparently inclined to do mischief, a young fellow, unarmed, again came forward with the rice, fowls, etc., for which he was paid, and was highly delighted with the small silver coins, of the value of which he showed his appreciation by saying he should sew them on his large becowried waist-flap. After doing a little work, we went on to the next village, preceded by an immense army of Nagas and followed by a few more. At this village also an attempt was made to turn us back, as before; but, as we again went on steadily, they again gave way. Here we lost some of our escort; but at the third village, Chichimi, we found a larger crowd than ever outside the stockade, who were joined by our escort, and for some little time it seemed doubtful if battle was not intended by these gaily-dressed warriors. We occupied a fine open grassy plateau, the approaches to which we could command. At length, we persuaded them that it was best to keep the peace, and we passed quietly through this village. Outside I put up my plane-table, the crowd again assembling near. Colonel Tulloch and the guard kept watch while I worked. When all the coolies and rear-guard had come up, we formed camp in a good spot close by. This had been a most trying day: the villages being so close together, we had no sooner passed Scylla safely than we found ourselves face to face with Charybdis. The attitude of all the Nagas was so very unsatisfactory that we could not relax our watchfulness for a second, and the slightest indiscretion on our part would have provoked an outbreak. However, we hoped that, having go so far, the Nagas would see that we did not mean them any harm, and would not give us any further trouble - a hope not to be realised; for the next morning, when we started to ascend the steep hill to Lukobomi, about four miles south of which was the point I wished to clear, we were again followed by crowds of armed Nagas from all five villages in our rear, and as we were approaching a jungly bit of road, and they pressed on our rear-guard, were were obliged to threaten to fire on them if they did not keep their distance. They pretended to drop back; but as soon as our backs were turned, they came creeping on through the grass till they reached our line again, and I was obliged to fire a few shots over their heads before they would cease from hustling our rear-guard and coolies. We arrived in the village without opposition. All the inhabitants were fully armed, and as it was a small village, it was evident from the large force in it that the village must have been reinforced by their neighbours. We searched for a camping-place, which we at last found about one-and-a-half mile beyond the village. I at once despatched some coolies with a guard to commence clearing the point from which I wished to observe, and shortly after followed myself, the Colonel remaining to look after the safety of the camp, which was being watched by all the Nagas who had followed us, but who had disappeared before my return at nightfall.