The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

book : 'Konyak Nagas' by Christoph von Furer-Haimendorf, (1969)

caption: Chapter Two. The Social Structure and its Units
caption: a comparison with Kachin systems of Burma (Leach) and Apa Tani
medium: books
ethnicgroup: KonyakKachinApa Tani
person: Furer-Haimendorf/ C.
date: 1969
refnum: with permission from Holt, Rinehart & Winston, New York63:4
text: A similar case of the coexistence of two contrasting types of political organization within an area of considerable cultural homogeneity has been reported from the Kachins, the neighbors of the Nagas on the eastern side of the Indo-Burma border. In 'Political Systems of Highland Burma' (1954) E. R. Leach has discussed this problem in great detail, and his conclusions are very relevant to the evaluation of the Konyak case. Seen against the background of the situation among the hill people of Burma, the Thenkoh-Thendu dichotomy appears as an extension of a known and widespread pattern of fluctuating systems of tribal government and not as a freak combination of irreconcilable political ideologies and practices. Neither is the rigid division of Thendu society into hereditary classes of unequal status without parallel among the peoples of the North East Frontier Agency. The Apa Tani tribe in the mountains north of the Brahmaputra consists also of a privileged upper class and a lower stratum composed of commoners and slaves, but despite this hierarchic order, there is among the Apa Tanis no institution of chieftainship, and the system of village government is basically democratic. In Burma, however, powerful dynasties of chiefs occur not only among the Kachins but also among Chins, and in the context of such traditions of social stratification the Konyak system of hereditary chiefs can be understood much more easily than if we looked upon it as an unusual variant of the social order prevailing among the other Naga tribes.