Wednesday, March 01, 2017

I tried to rest, but then the Indians came.

I tried. I really did. Pneumonia sucks, and breathing is hard. But it was Mardi Gras day, and I live in a neighborhood where some of the original Mardi Gras Indian tribes originated. So what do I get right outside my house yesterday morning?


First there's a small parade...And then the Indians start to appear.
This is an old tradition, going back to when the Mardi Gras parades were still unofficially segregated. Black people, not feeling welcome, formed their own parade groups and masked themselves as Indians. This was an homage to the Indians of old in the swamps outside of town who sheltered and adopted runaway slaves back in the day.
Originally these tribes fought each other, and many were injured or killed every year. It was a time for settling scores and grudges in the neighborhoods and the last thing you wanted to see was Indians on your block.
Over the years it changed though. Costumes became so ornate and expensive--each one is hand-made anew every year--that no one wanted to fight and damage them. So now the "battles" consist of tribes coming together and taunting each other good-naturedly about which of them is "prettiest" and who looks the best. And these costumes can weigh as much as a hundred pounds and creating them can take up the entire year between Mardi Gras seasons.
Big Chief.
Here, two chiefs come together to argue over who is prettiest.
This is the REAL Mardi Gras culture--stuff that few tourists and even most locals are never going to see. And I got to see a bunch of it, because it kicked off right outside my house.


  1. I spotted your outfit....second pic....short one in pink....awesome....

    1. Uh, sorry, but I have not been invited to mask with the Indians yet. I even put on my application that I am African-American by virtue of my great, great grandparents who were Boers. That didn't seem to sway them for some reason.

  2. Those are the good parades. Folks work their hearts out on those costumes!

  3. I'm thinking that Arts and Crafts stores must be a BIG business in that town!

  4. Apparently they take all that very seriously. I never knew that there was an Indian parade at MG. There's a lot that I don't know so thanks for the education. Having it all on your doorstep makes it much more convenient.

  5. The Indians don't parade so much as they gather by tribe then roam the neighborhoods looking for other tribes to "battle" with. There are many tribes here and each is independent of the others. It's another form of social club in the black community, kind of like the second-line marchers.

  6. The costumes remind me alot of the Mummers in Philly.