4.01.2015


"The suits — beaded, sequined, plumed and bejeweled — can take hundreds of hours of precise, painstaking labor for practitioners of one of New Orleans' most storied street cultures. Intricate headdresses inspired by the war garb of the Native Americans of the Great Plains are rendered in Day-Glo marabou down and wispy, Technicolor ostrich feathers. Patient artisans sew tiny, multicolored glass beads half the size of rice grains into elaborate narrative scenes of Wild West mythology. 

"A year's worth of vision, craft and needlework traditionally culminates on Mardi Gras day, when the Indian tribes unveil this year's suits. After a traditional performance of "Indian Red" (one of the sacred songs in the repertoire), the "gangs" roam the neighborhoods, searching out other tribes for ritual confrontations that incorporate thundering drumbeats, intricate tambourine rhythms and powerful chants that echo through the streets. After hours on the streets, the Downtown tribes — 9th Ward Comanche Hunters, Hard Head Hunters, Yellow Pocahontas, Creole Osceolas, Washitaw Nation, Young Generation — gather under the hulking Claiborne Overpass, while the Uptown gangs — Creole Wild West, Wild Tchoupitoulas, Golden Blades, Wild Magnolias, Shining Star Hunters — rove near the corner of Second and Dryades."
Check out more of Pableaux Johnson's gorgeous article on the Mardi Grad Indians here.