New Orleans

CULTURE | History of the Black Mardi Gras Indians of New Orleans

Mardi Gras Indian tradition dates back to around 1718. Runaway slaves from the transatlantic slave trade were taken in, protected, and hidden by the indigenous people of the continent in the Louisiana area. Many slaves sought refuge with Houma, Chitimacha, and other tribes living in the swamplands surrounding New Orleans. It is also unclear whether there is a direct relationship between the Mardi Gras Indian tradition and other ceremonial and musical masquerading traditions among African diasporic communities, such as the junkanoo parades throughout the Caribbean.


In West African culture, the use of masking, beads, and feathers is widespread. Similar headdresses and outfits are common in Native American traditions. Each suit, through the use of hand-sewn patches and handcrafted feathers, aims to tell a story. As the culture matured in New Orleans, maskers paraded during the Mardi Gras season.


For more videos on the Mardi Gras Indians check out the videos below

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