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A Sema village whereas most of the Angami villages would have houses ranging from 800 onwards. The approach to a Sema village consisting largely of open jhum and in part a very thick low jungle is in contrast to the precipitous approaches and narrow lines leading to an Angami village. The cultivated lands are near their village. As a precaution against fire, the Semas keep their grains in small granaries clear of their houses, whereas Angamis and others have their grnaries just beside their houses. The Sema villages are on the whole much cleaner than the Angami villages partly because they have more room owing to the limited number of houses and mainly because unlike the Angamis, the cattle are kept away from the house. The Semas also differ from the other Nagas in the amount of bride price paid on the occasion of marriages. Whereas most of the Nagas either do not pay any bride price or pay just nominal sums, the Semas pay huge bride price. The economic consequences of the bride price might have been one of the reasons that resulted in the practice of the Semas marrying their step-mothers, a practice not found with any other Naga community. The Semas are the only ones in Nagaland who marry the widows of their diseased father by dividing the step-mothers amongst them, the eldest son getting the lion’s share. The only precaution taken in this is that none marries his own mother. The two striking features that separate the Semas from all other Nagas are the position of the village chief and the migratory habits of the community. The villages are named after the persons who originally established it. He automatically becomes the village chief. Subsequently, the position of the village chiefs become hereditory ones. The village chief is a secular person with great personal authority. The house of the village chief is the focus of all socio-politico-religious activities. The whole village depends upon him for their well being. When the children of the chiefs grow up, some of them move out along with a group of warriors in search of new lands and thus establish new villages by way of conquests. Amongst the Nagas the total lack of any sentimental attachement to the land of their ancestors is unique to the Semas, whereas nothing short of a direct necessity would force a Naga to relinquish his ancestral village and when driven out in war, in the very first opportunity, the other Nagas to a man would return to rebuild their old village. While referring to these two aspects of the Semas, Hutton in the preface to the 1967 edition states that `I have (in appendix II) suggested a possible connection between the Semas and the Bodo tribes of the west, but one of the most striking features of the semas as I know them was the difference between their village organization and that of most Naga tribes, the Sema polity having much more the complexion of a Kuki-chin, rather than of genuine Naga set up. The dependence of the whole community on a secular chief of great personal authority but no sacrosanctity, is much more suggestive of Kuki-chin than of Naga affinities, as also was the almost nomadic tendency of the tribe to be forever seeking to expand. These characteristics, in such marked contrast to the attachment of most of the extremely egalitarian in character, were accompanied, as in the case of Kuki, by an unusual propensity for assimilating others to their own way of life.

1.4.2. Matriarchy

Hutton (1967: 131-136) expresses a strong feeling that the Semas till comparatively recently had a matrilineal family system. In support of this feelings, he puts forward six points/issues. These are:

(i)The occurrence of the suffix, li, with the clan and sect names, for instances (a) chisholimi, Khakhilimi,  Kibalimi (b) in the names of communities such as Mishilimi, Mukalimi etc. which are some of the Sema villages founded in fairly early stages of the Sema settlements in Nagaland. (c) a few words such as: apelimi `brother’ used by women only, angulimi `relation-in-law’ etc. The suffix li. according to him strongly suggests a derivation from ilimi `a girl’. The suffix li was also found in all the feminine nouns.

(ii)The place and role of the mother’s brother, for instance, (a) a great deal of respect is enjoined to ones mother’s brother and it is considered a very serious matter to say anything to one’s maternal uncle that would offend him (b) whenever a girl gets married, the maternal uncle is expected to offer her a gift. If the maternal uncle is dead his son must discharge this obligation. The nephew-in-law in his turn must pay the maternal uncle-in-law some money. If the nephew-in-law dies before making this payment, his heirs will have to redeem this debt to the maternal uncle of the girl.

(iii)The word for the ancestors is appease. It literally means `father’s mother’ but applied to all ancestors of either sex except the father’s father.

(iv)Marriage is never made against the wishes of the girl.







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