The gang at Siren Media Marketing are in New Orleans to set up a location and mix in with the locals to enjoy the amazing New Orleans culture and some of its traditions.
One of those traditions falls at the end of Mardi Gras every year. It’s called Super Sunday. It is something that we can describe, but you really have to experience. We have included the History for this occasion below, along with some photos and video, but if you can, it is a great thing to come and see for yourself. The entire Mardi Gras season is a lot of fun. and if you can stay for this Super Sunday event you really should try.
Mardi Gras Indians are black carnival revelers in New Orleans, Louisiana, who dress up for Mardi Gras in suits influenced by Native American ceremonial apparel. Collectively, their organizations are called “tribes”. There are over 40 tribes. They range in size from half a dozen to several dozen members. Wikipedia
The Mardi Gras Indians named themselves after native Indians to pay them respect for their assistance in escaping the tyranny of slavery. It was often local Indians who accepted slaves into their society when they made a break for freedom. They have never forgotten this support.
Mardi Gras is full of secrets, and the Mardi Gras Indians are as much a part of that secrecy as any other carnival organization. Their parade dates, times and routes are never published in advance, although they do tend to gather in the same areas every year.
The Mardi Gras Indians are comprised, in large part, of the African-American communities of New Orleans’s inner city. While these Indians have paraded for well over a century, their parade is perhaps the least recognized Mardi Gras tradition.
Here is Louis Armstrong Park near Congo Square stands statue in remembrance.
“Chief Allison Marcel Montana,” a New Orleans cultural icon. For over 50 years he acted as the Mardi Gras Indian “chief of chiefs” Tootie, Big Chief of the Yellow Pocahontas Tribe
The story goes that Carnival was a bloody time for the Indians. Mardi Gras was the time that the Indians from different areas would battle between each other to settle a score.
The Indians seeking revenge would dress as a woman, so they could then blend into the crowd during Carnival, approach the person they are seeking revenge on and attack them in the middle of Carnival.
Now that the tradition and practice for the Indians to compare their tribal song, dance, and dress with other tribes The bloody battles grew weary to Tootie, he was outraged by the violence that the Mardi Gras Indians would present to the public and towards each other, and he spoke out convincing the Indian gangs.
What was once a violent and bloody experience was transformed into a positive peaceful event through music and dance and costumes.
This gained respect for the Indians by transforming the violence that the Indians were known for into a peaceful gathering of beautiful handmade costumes during Mardi Gras
Now it was about their presentation skills of the costumes they had worked on. It was now about who had the prettiest suit. The term prettiest would be the highest compliment that could be paid during these events.
It was said the “Chief Allison Marcel Montana,” was the first to say “Stop fighting with your guns and begin fighting with your suits.”[
The good news is Mardi Gras day is no longer a day to “settle scores” among the Mardi Gras Indians. Now that the tradition and practice for the Indians to compare their tribal song, dance and dress with other tribes as they meet that day, violence is a thing of the past. The Mardi Gras Indian has invested thousands of hours and dollars in the creation of his suit, and will not run the risk of ruining it in a fight. This tradition, rich with folk art and history, is now appreciated by museums and historical societies around the world. It is a remarkable and welcome change from the past.
The Procession of the Indians
As told by Larry Bannock
“The Spy Boy is first in the front: he is the baddest of all the Indians… he is ahead looking for trouble. Only a chosen few can be Spy Boy. It’s his job to send a signal to First Flag when he sees other Indians. First Flag signals back down the line to Big Chief. Big Chief has a stick that controls the Indians. When he hits the ground with the stick, they better get down and bow to the Chief.” – Larry Bannock
On Mardi Gras Day, if you’re lucky enough to see some of the Mardi Gras Indians, the first Indian you’re likely to see is the Spy Boy. His job places him ahead of the Big Chief’s procession. Each Spy Boy has a method to signal potential trouble or approaching rival Indian tribes… with dancing, whooping, hollering, and hand language. His observations are communicated to the Big Chief who, in return, sends a set of directions and instructions back down the parade procession.
It is through this elaborate system of dances, whoops, flags and hand signals that the Big Chief is able to direct a progression multiple streets long… even though he is far away from the front of the parade. This communication network is important, as it allows the Big Chief time to adjust his suit, don his headdress, and prepare a song for an impending meeting with a rival tribe. Marching the streets on Mardi Gras Day on the way to meet other Indian tribes is a tribe’s opportunity to have an entire year’s worth of artistic effort appraised by an opponent artist.
“The route on Mardi Gras is always secret. Nobody knows where anybody’s gonna be… that’s why Spy Boy is ahead and looking for Indians. If he sights a gang, he tells Flag Boy that a gang is on its way.”
The Flag Boy is the next ranking Indian. It is he who carries the “gang flag” – a huge staff decorated with feathers (seen on left) and the gang symbol. Generally, Flag Boys are a block or two behind Spy Boys, and at least a block ahead of the Big Chief. Their responsibility is to pass along Spy Boy’s information to the Big Chief and return the Big Chief’s response back to the Spy Boy. By raising his gang flag high in the air and using prearranged signals, the Flag Boy is able to keep the Big Chief and Spy Boy in direct communication. This allows the Big Chief control over the direction of the route his tribe will take. As mentioned, the progression can be many streets long. “Second Liners” are always present between the ranking Indians. They are usually not costumed but provide much entertainment as they follow along dancing, singing, beating drums and playing tambourines.
If you are lucky enough to catch the meeting of the Uptown and a Downtown Indians on Super Sunday it is something to experience.