The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

published - extracts on Nagas from 'Assam Administration Report'

caption: Naga Hills district
caption: Relations with Tributary States and Frontier Affairs
caption: Condition of the people; progress to civilization
medium: reports
person: McCabe/ Mr
date: 1887
date: 1888
text: 31. The Officiating Deputy-Commissioner makes the following remarks on the general condition of the Nagas:
text: "The progress in the amelioration of the savage and anti-social customs of the Nagas of all tribes is slow. Granting that aimless murders for the mere sake of bloodshed have been put an end to, and that a security hitherto entirely unknown has been introduced into these hills, we have, with this immeasurably important exception, which is of course the first condition of any improvement, still failed in perceptively modifying the ancestral manners and ways of life of the people. The inhabitants of the great majority of Naga villages are still, after ten years of our rule, content to live their old life of isolation on their separate hilltops. The spear is still habitually carried out to the fields by every Naga when going out to work, although the raison d'etre of the practice, the fear of treacherous attack by the men of another village, has been long a thing of the past. Each household still, excluding almost the sole article of salt, produces what suffices it for its needs. The multiplication of mutual wants, on which progress in civilisation so largely depends, is a process which has hardly yet had a beginning among the Naga tribes. There are not, however, wanting signs of the coming of better things. The rough statistics of Angami trade show an advance which the construction of the cart-road up to Kohima, now at last being taken in hand, ought to do much to hasten. Here and there one finds a Naga who has replaced the rude and uncleanly earthen or wooden vessels in almost universal use for eating and cooking purposes by metal utensils. In the large villages near Kohima such articles as umbrellas and matches are in fairly common use, while the steel needle has taken the place of the primitive bamboo implement with which all sewing was formerly done. In most villages in the Wokha sub-division and near Kohima in the Angami country there are to be found one or more men who have picked up something of the usages of native Indian civilisation as servants in Kohima or at the police outposts, and who can speak a smattering of Assamese or Hindustani, and the number of these men is constantly on the increase. One important feature in the year's review of the condition of the people must not be left out of sight. This is the decrease in the demand for impressed labour. The number of coolies impressed at Kohima for the various Government departments fell by two-thirds, from upwards of 16,000 to less than 5,000. The relief to the people by this change must be enormous, and owing to the improved military arrangements for transport, it is likely to be permanent."
text: The Deputy-Commissioner's remarks on the slowness of the Nagas to adopt the ways of civilized life, though in a certain sense true, are, the Chief Commissioner thinks, calculated to convey too low an estimate of the actual state of these people and of the great work which has been achieved, mainly owing to the exertions of Mr. McCabe, since the formation of the Naga Hills district. The Nagas are good cultivators, especially in the Angami country, where the stone-terraced rice-fields struck the Chief Commissioner as excelling anything of the sort he had seen in any other part of India. They lead a life of rude confort, wages being extraordinarily high, and almost everyone having an abundance of what he wants (see the Chief Commissioner's remarks in Secretary's letter on the condition of the people, No.2,052, dated the 12th July 1888, to the Secretary to the Government of India in the Revenue and Agricultural Department, where this matter is treated at greater length). The only serious drawback is their brutal disregard of human life and the miserable cruelty and treachery with which they avenge themselves at times on a truly terrible scale in the quarrels constantly prevailing between one village and another. Unhappily, in the tracts beyond our control these savage propensities have still full sway, but in the Naga Hills district all this may be said to be now completely at an end.