The age-old custom of hereditary chieftainship which was changed into hereditary Gaon Burah (GB) by the British colonial power is still in practice among the Sumi tribe of Nagaland. The paper is an attempt towards understanding hereditary chieftainship practice in its historicity among the Sumi tribe of Nagaland. In doing so, the article dwells upon the inherent power structure and key players and their respective functions within it. The author observes that in earlier times, the Sumi villages were governed by the hereditary chiefs or Kukami with assistance from their advisors and helpers. The social, political, economic, and religious roles were carried out by these functionaries. As these were exclusively male members of the Sumi tribe, the article terms it as the defining characteristic of Sumi “masculinity.” The article contends this gender role by underlining significant roles and functions performed by female members of the Sumi tribe and strengthens this argument by bringing in the case of Teli Kivelimi, a prominent Sumi woman village chief.
[Northeast India, hereditary chiefs, Gaon Burah, village governance, Sumi women, gender, British colonialism]