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Naga Tribes of Nagaland and their Territory / Districts

A brief summary of the Naga Tribes of Nagaland and their Territory / Districts or primary place of habitation in Nagaland.

Theories on origin of the word ‘Naga’:

The word ‘Naga‘ is a vaguely defined umbrella term for several indigenous communities in North-East India and Western Burma. In India Nagas are found in Nagaland, four Districts in Manipur, one District in Assam and two Districts in Arunachal Pradesh. In addition to this, many Nagas also inhabit Western parts of Myanmar (Burma)

The exact origin of the term ‘Naga’ is unknown.  There are various viewpoints on the origin of the term ‘Naga’:

  • From the Burmese word “No-ka” meaning – ‘people with pierced earlobes‘. No’ Means ear pierced or to make a hole in or through, in Kachin language which is spoken by the Kachins of Burma. Piercing of the ear lobes is a widespread practice among the Naga tribes.
  • From the Assamese word ‘noga’ meaning ‘naked‘.
  • From the Sanskrit word ‘Nag’ (snake). Some refute this theory since Nagas are not associated with snake worship or any snake related traditions.
  • The Naga tribes had something in common that has made them recognisable as a people, since the time of Ptolemy, who used the words ‘Naga log’ to mean ‘the realm of the naked people‘ during the 2nd Century A.D as recorded in  Ptolemy, Claudius., Geographia, VIII, p.18-22.
  • According to Captain J. Butler, the term ‘Naga’ is derived from the Bengali word ‘Nangla’ or the Hindustani word ‘Nanga’, meaning naked, crude and barbarous (Butler:1847).
  • According to Verrier Elwin, the most likely derivation is that ‘Naga’ is traced from the word ‘Nok’, which means people, in some Tibeto-Burman languages. [Elwin, Verrier., Nagaland, 1961, p.22. ]
  • According to Dr. J.H.Hutton, it is derived from the Assamese word ‘Nanga’. It is typical of Assamese dialect to pronounce ‘a’ to ‘o’ and so ‘Nanga’ is changed to ‘Naga’ since the second ‘n’ is nasal and pronounced as ‘Noga’. [Hutton, J.H., The Angami Nagas, 1921, p.5]

The Nagas have no written historical record about their origin and the route of migration to their present inhabitation. However it is a general believe that the majority of the Nagas immigrated from South East through Indo-Myanmar border to the Naga Hills. According to the report on the province of Assam in 1854 by Mills A.J. Moffatt, the British first came in contact with the Nagas in 1832 when Captain Jenkins and Pamberton along with 700 soldiers and 800 coolies or porters to carry their baggage and provision marched across the Naga Hills in their attempt to find a route from Manipur to Assam.

Recognised Naga Tribes in Nagaland State:

  1. Angami
  2. Ao
  3. Chakhesang
  4. Chang
  5. Khiamnuingam
  6. Konyak
  7. Lotha
  8. Phom
  9. Pochury
  10. Rengma
  11. Sangtam
  12. Sumi
  13. Yimchungru
  14. Zeliang

Other Scheduled Tribes recognized by the Government:

  1. Garo
  2. Kachari
  3. Kuki
  4. Mikir
  5. Naga

Backward Naga Tribes of Nagaland:

Out of the recognized Naga tribes mentioned above, there are nine (9) Naga Tribes which are considered ‘backward tribes’ for the purpose of reservation namely – Chakhesang, Chang, Khiamniungan, Konyak, Phom, Pochury, Sangtam, Yimchunger and Zeliang. 

Naga Tribes of Nagaland and their Districts along with ‘backward’ status are as given in the table below:

[Note: If you are viewing this on mobile device, swipe / scroll horizontally on the table to see all columns]

S.NoNaga Tribes of NagalandDistrict / AreaConsidered Backward Tribe?
3ChakhesangPhekBackward Tribe
4ChangTuensangBackward Tribe
6KhiamniunganNoklakBackward Tribe
7KonyakMonBackward Tribe
10PhomLonglengBackward Tribe
11PochuryPhekBackward Tribe
12RengmaKohima (Tsemenyu)
13SangtamTuensangBackward Tribe
15YimchungerTuensangBackward Tribe
16ZeliangPerenBackward Tribe


  • The term Naga is a generic term which includes various tribes generally found inhabiting Nagaland, Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Myanmar (Burma). The above list is only the Naga tribes in Nagaland.
  • Some Naga tribes listed above can be found in across several states and in Myanmar also.

Rongmei Tribe recognization and revocation by Nagaland Government:

  • During the Democratic Alliance of Nagaland-II government, Rongmei Tribe was notified as indigenous tribe of Nagaland as per August 4, 2012 notification.
  • On April 25, 2017, Nagaland government cabinet withdrew with immediate effect, the August 4, 2012 notification regarding recognition of Rongmei tribe as one of the indigenous Naga tribes of Nagaland.
  • Further, as per the Office Memorandum of the cabinet secretariat dated April 26, 2017 maintained that “the 1313 people belonging to the Rongmei tribe, already identified by Nagaland government through special enumeration process as having permanently settled in the present territory of Nagaland prior to 01.12.1963, along with their legitimate descendants, may continue to enjoy the status, privileges and entitlements of indigenous inhabitants of Nagaland…”

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