The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

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

caption: Chapter Five. Heathens and Baptists
caption: effect of tea drinking as a substitute for rice-beer
medium: books
ethnicgroup: Ao
location: Chantongia
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 6.1936-6.1937
text: As a substitute for rice-beer the Mission has introduced tea, which drunk without milk is greatly inferior in nutritive value. Its other disadvantage is that it has to be bought for hard cash, whereas rice-beer is brewed at home from surplus rice. Since there is no market for the coarse rice grown on the Aos' jhum fields, this change-over lessens the Nagas economic self sufficiency. I have often wondered how Christian Nagas are supposed to obtain the many foreign goods for which the Mission has given them a taste. Shorts and shirts, the blouses of women, tea, sugar and many novel household goods have all to be imported and while the
text: Mission was certainly pouring a good deal of money into the (49) country and the pay of pastors and teachers as well as many gifts to converts accounted for most foreign articles, the economy of the Christian Nagas could not very well be permanently based on such outside support. But it does not seem that the Mission had any clear plan of how to restore the disturbed balance of the Aos' economy. I never heard of any new industries started in Christian villages, or indeed of the introduction of improved agricultural methods which would enable the Nagas to produce for sale and thus obtain the money necessary to satisfy their new wants. ln these villages the hard toil on the fields remained, while much of the bright side of village-life, the great annual feasts, the dancing and singing, the happy community life in the morung and last but not least the gay parties round pots of sparkling rice-beer had disappeared. No longer did the ambition to entertain friends and neighbours at elaborate feasts to gain the right to the wearing of magnificent ornaments and to rise to prominence in the council of elders, lend zest to the growing of rice. Village life, shorn of its colour and entertainments had become monotonous, and all the teaching the Mission provided pointed to a wider, and in the eyes of the young convert, a more desirable world. Seeing his own customs condemned by the missionaries, he learnt to despise his own tribe and cultural inheritance. Christianity and Naga culture seemed to him opposite poles, and on the side of the missionaries there had indeed been few attempts to bring the two into harmony and build on that which was valuable in tribal life.