The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

published - 'Notes on the Wild Tribes Inhabiting the So-Called Naga Hills, on our North-East Frontier of India', by Col. R.G. Woodthorpe, 1881

caption: Angami blood feuds
medium: notes
ethnicgroup: Angami
person: Woodthorpe/ R.G.
date: 1881
refnum: given at a meeting of the Anthropological Institute, 1881
text: Bloodthirsty, treacherous, and revengeful all Nagas, even the best are, and the Angami, though in many ways perhaps the finest and (56) best of these tribes, is no exception: with them as with the others it is an article of faith that blood once shed can never be expiated, except by the death of the murderer or some of his near relatives, and though years may pass away vengeance will assuredly be taken some day. One marked peculiarity in their intestine feuds is that we so often find a village divided against itself, one clan being at deadly feud with another, whilst a third lives between them in a state of neutrality, and at perfect peace with both. Once, in passing from one village to another at war with it, a young man came as a guide. I asked him if he was not afraid to go to the hostile village, but he said he was originally a native of that village, but had married a girl in the one we had just left, and lived there, and in consequence he was a neutral, and could pass backwards and forwards between the two belligerent villages without harm from either. "The blood feud of the Naga, as with the Corsican "vendetta", is a thing to be handed down from generation to generation, an everlasting and baneful heirloom involving in its relentless course the brutal murders of helpless old men and women, innocent young girls and children, until, as often happens, mere family quarrels, generally about land or water, being taken up by their respective clansmen, break out into bitter civil wars which devastate whole villages." - (Captain Butler.) I remember once, on our return to camp after a long day's work on the neighbouring hills, a young man, who was our guide, as we approached his village half hidden in the dusk and mist, began to dance and shout and level his spear at every bush, with yells of defiance. On my asking the meaning of this strange conduct, he explained that he knew that a man from another village was on his trail to kill him for some injury, and it was more than possible that he might be behind any of these bushes. My guide, therefore, thought it a wise precaution to take it for granted that his enemy was there, and by shouts and a defiant attitude to intimidate him. My friend added, " Seeing that I am prepared for him, and that I know all about it, he will slink away in the dark".