My dream since I moved to New Orleans was to see Mardi Gras Indians in a traditional place – ie the street – rather than in a touristy location such as at Mardi Gras, the Jazz Festival, a parade or in the French Quarter. Finally on Saturday – St. Joseph’s Day – my dream became a reality.
I knew that Indians usually masked – dressed in their costumes – and walked the streets to meet other Indians. (Faubourg) Treme is a typical location and I knew that I might find some under the Claiborne underpass by the Circle Food Store. This isn’t too far from my house…so I headed out, down St. Claude, planning to cross the bridge and then drive along N. Claiborne.
A few minutes out…still on St. Claude I ran into stalled traffic…and down the street…feathers!! I quickly parked my car, grabbed my camera and ran down the block.
At first, I could mostly see something like this…just feathers of different colours…
Gradually, as the crowd spread out I began being able to separate out different tribes and groups. The largest tribe present was the Ninth Ward Hunters (in the deep green). They also had the biggest crowd singing and chanting along with them. It was very crowded and a bit wild, but the Mardi Gras Indians had met with the police to ensure safety and respect.
Mardi Gras Indians spend a lot of time each year making their costume. Traditionally, they took it apart and started again. In more recent years there is a lot of demand for the outfits by museums and collectors so many are being sold. I’m glad because these really are works of art.
Telling a Mardi Gras Indian that they’re pretty is the ultimate compliment. Please enjoy some pretty pretty costumes.