The Mardi Gras Indians Will Be Marching Tomorrow, Fat Tuesday, February 16, 2010
The Mardi Gras Indians, which constitute “tribes” like the Creole Wild West, the Golden Comanches, the Wild Tchoupitoulas (pronounced CHAP-IT-TOO-LAS), and the Wild Magnolias, will be marching tomorrow in different parts of New Orleans, and meeting up in one central area in the black community. Once, they used to march down South Claiborne Avenue in the same area where the overpass and the Super Dome now sit. All those homes were destroyed, but still they–the people–remain. You’ve probably seen them on trips to New Orleans; working class black men who sew fantastic costumes in order to mask and to prance down the street with their families and friends for one day out of the year.
The black Indian founder of the Spiritual Church of New Orleans, Mother Leafy Anderson (who was also born near Baraboo WI), had them march not only at Mardi Gras, but on March 19, which is St. Joseph’s Day, and my birthday. She also taught some to revere the spirit of Black Hawk, the warrior chief of the famous Black Hawk War of the 1830s, the one in which Abraham Lincoln participated. While some of these men can indeed boast of Native American ancestry, not all can. They are thankful that Native Americans sheltered them from slave catchers, and taught them how to survive in the wilderness, and even brought them into their families. The tradition of the Mardi Gras Indians does not come from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West shows near the turn of the last century as some historians have thought. It begins way before that time, around the late 1830s.
Above is the story of one of those tribes.
Below is what occurs during Mardi Gras Day, early in the morning, when another particular tribe starts out.Vodpod videos no longer available.
More about the preparations–and the sacrifices–the Indians make each year here. More about the traditions, the characters in a tribe (the spy-boy, flag boy, and big chiefs, and what it means to mask Indian), and photos and videos. Home of the Groove presents Mardi Gras Indians who have produced their own music. And live stream WWOZ-FM 90.7 that will present Mardi Gras music and events live. This is how black people remain in New Orleans–through their homegrown culture. Anything else is just fake.
Laissez les bon temp roulez!