In 1814, under the lead of Lowang and Mongwang families of Namsang, a small group of Noctes belonging to various villages came down from the hills and settled on the banks of Dehing River at Jeypore in Naharkatia (Assam), which is about 30 kilometres away from the tribe’s mainland. This Nocte village in Assam is called Pontuan or Paltun.
The Noctes most probably came down in search of better hunting grounds and clean water sources. Soon after the settlement, they visited the Bali Satra at Sasoni in Naharkatia and accepted tenets of Vaishnavism. From here it is evident that, the influence of Chief Lotha Khunbao, the first Nocte to accept tenets of Vaishnavism in 1717, was still strong even after 67 years of his death in 1747. Tangseng Nocte, a resident of Pontuan, said that they even built a small temple in the name of Khunbao’s spiritual guru, Sree Ram Dev.
Even after more than 200 years since their first settlement in Assam, the people of Pontuan village have not abandoned their Nocte culture and traditions. The Chopha or Chief of Pontuan is still highly respected and all the matters of dispute and conflict is brought before his Ngongthun, a council of advisors, for trial.
As of 2020, Shri Sinwang Humchha Lowang is the Chief of Pontuan village. Since he has no son, his heir is Shri Tuhil Lowang, the eldest son of Sinwang’s brother.
As of 2020, there are around 38 houses in Pontuan village with a population of not more than 200. Pontuan villagers can be divided into 9 families and they are as follows:
1. Lowang Family;
2. Mongwang Family;
3. Nokbi Family;
4. Kanglom Family;
5. Kakho Family;
6. Tangdong Family;
7. Khetey Family;
8. Kumkho Family; and
9. Nocte Family.
The ruling families of Pontuan, i.e., Lowang and Mongwang, came from Namsang village. The Nokbi family came from Dadam village. The Kanglom family came from the Tutsa area in Khonsa. The Kumkho family came from Jankang village. The Nocte family came from Longchang village. The Kakho, the Tangdong and the Khetey families from villages such as Kaimai, Kheti etc.
All Pontuan Noctes speak the Hawakhun dialect of the Nocte language so fluently that it would be difficult to differentiate them from the mainland Noctes. They are also so fluent in the Assamese language that one would consider them an Assamese. Besides these two languages, a considerable number speak Hindi and English also.
The Pontuan villagers are taught in Assam medium. As of 2020, there are at least 10 people who has government jobs in Assam. One is a Circle Officer posted in Namrup (Assam) and is about to retire. The rest are teachers.
Though Pontuan village has very less population, its area is more than enough to support the agricultural activities of the entire 38 families. The Pontuan villagers are self-reliant farmers and they produce large amount of vegetables for self-consumption. They also have plantations of bamboo for both domestic and commercial purposes.
The mainland Noctes celebrate their Loku festival in the month of November, but the Pontuan Noctes celebrate Loku in the month of April along with the Assamese festival, Bihu. This is a sign of fusion between the cultures of Nocte and Assam. However, the festival is celebrated in the same manner.
In Pontuan also, marriage in the same clan is strictly prohibited. The marriage method is also the same where the groom goes to the bride’s house with a traditional shawl and two bamboo tubes filled with the local wine. After that, the two families perform Rangtam, an offering to God with the local wine. The groom offers a pig to the bride’s family and a pair of traditional shawls to his mother-in-law. After that, they share betel leaves and areca nuts among them. These two edibles play an important in Nocte culture and it has been mentioned in the Genesis section.
The Pontuan Noctes have strong connections with other Nocte villages because a number of marriages have taken place between them and they frequent Deomali, the nearest Nocte town, for business purposes.
AxomSon, the creator and editor of Bor Axom Chronicles, interviewed the Chief of Pontuan on the effect of coal mining in their way of life.
The majority of people in Pontuan are farmers, and their fields are irrigated by the many streams that flow down from the nearby hills and drain into the Dehing river. These streams are also used for fishing.
Over the years, the streams have been polluted by the produce and by-products from the mining in the hills. The residue of the sulphur rich coal becomes acidic, after being washed down into the water bodies. Consequently, the soil loses its fertility and at the same time, makes the water unfit for the survival of fishes and other aquatic animals. So much coal are washed down these streams that, the villagers have begun to collect them and sell it.
AxomSon speculates that if such large scale mining is continued for a longer period, many villagers will be forced to abandon their farms and migrate to bigger cities for employment. The Chief's father stated that,"We are able to keep our mother tongue and traditions alive because we stay together. Otherwise, it would not have been possible for thirty eight families to keep our ancestral traditions alive while assimilating with a bigger culture than our own."
Smt. Barsharani Borah did a video documentary on Pontuan village of Assam and named it Nocte Hahsong, which means where the Nocte lives, The Nocte Digest is grateful to Borah for doing this wonderful documentary.
In 1875, the Wanchos from Nyinu village killed 80 men of the British East India Company. The British retaliated and create chaos among the Wanchos. In 1876, the Noctes successful negotiated for peace with the Britishers on behalf of the Wanchos.