The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

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

caption: Chapter Thirteen. The Camp On a Peak
caption: Chang outpost at Helipong; a human hand trophy
medium: books
ethnicgroup: Chang
location: Helipong Chentang
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 6.1936-6.1937
text: Why should these few people choose to settle here? It seemed strange that they had selected these uninviting heights. The reason was a political one; this was the much-contested frontier district between the Sangtams and the Chang Nagas; and the small village of Helipong, built as an outpost by the Changs, secured their right to the whole ridge. Outside the village we found concrete proof of the support lent to the small community by their more powerful tribesmen: a human hand suspended from a bamboo pole. Rather wizened it looked, but quite recognizable. It was a complimentary present, the people of Helipong told us, that had been sent by the Changs of Chentang, and obviously they were proud of (116) their unusual gift. The men of Helipong, though rendered immune from attack by their splendid strategical position, are too few in number to sally forth on raids of their own, and they are grateful when their tribesmen from the lower and more fertile ridges send them a share in their spoils of war. No doubt they feel they are participating in the exciting world below them, for the people of Helipong must spend their whole lives looking down on mountains and valleys, which except for the hills to the east of their friends the Changs, are more effectively closed to them than by the stoutest iron bars. Certain death awaits the wanderer in a country where to be a stranger is tantamount to a death sentence.