The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

book : Return to the Naked Nagas (1939;1976)

caption: Chapter Four. Above the Clouds
caption: description of the chief of Sheangha; monkey skull head-dress
caption: chiefs from unadministered territory bring cases to Mills
medium: books
person: Mills/ J.P.
ethnicgroup: Konyak
location: Wakching
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 6.1936-6.1937
text: One man, with a head-dress of a monkey skull framed in boar's tusks, seemed to stand out from all this motley crowd. White-conch-shells covered his ears, and antelope horns were stuck through the lobes; he wore heavy ivory-armlets and red-cane rings on his arms, and his legs were encased in rings of cowrie shells and more of the red-cane rings.
text: But it was his self-possession and his composure, even more than his head-dress and fine ornaments, that distinguished him from those surrounding him. You do not expect to find such composure among primitive tribesmen and I was rather surprised at his obviously princely bearing. This was the chief of Sheangha, a village lying outside British territory, who, hearing of Mills' arrival, had come to pay him a visit. The relations between the independent chiefs beyond the border and the officials of the neighbouring Naga Hills district were of a rather curious kind, depending more or less on the personality of the Deputy Commissioner himself. Without in any way giving up their sovereignty in their own territory, the autocratic village chiefs sometimes invite the "Great Sahib," as they call the Deputy Commissioner, to act as mediator in settling their long drawn out tribal feuds. Mills, who for years had been Sub-divisional Officer at Mokokchung, from where the Konyak area is administered, knew most of the chiefs beyond the frontier personally, and he possessed considerable influence and authority among them. But when Nagas from across the frontier raided villages in British territory, the Deputy Commissioner no longer acted merely as mediator. He usually called the offender quickly to account, and even undertook punitive expeditions against unruly villages when he considered it necessary. However such actions were extremely rare, for the chiefs usually knew just how far they could go.