Mardi Gras Indians

I learn something new about this city everyday now I am ready for the explanation. I recently found out that the Mardi Gras Indians are African American and for the most part not really American Indians at all. Right off the bat, I find this strange I mean, do African Americans not have enough culture of their own to draw from? Why not dress in African tribal costumes and celebrate the countries, tribes and traditions of their own past? I am freely willing to admit that I do not know much about the Mardi Gras Indians and am more than willing to learn so far that I am just going on what I have heard and picked up along the way from google.

It seems they are honoring their Indian brothers and sisters who aided in their escape from slavery. This sounds wonderful and great, one culture honoring and celebrating the culture of another in turn the both live longer. With time, this has evolved into its own little sub culture of African-Native-Americans.

Here is where I start to become naturally and uncontrollably upset, the names they give their tribes. Such as Seminole, Young Navaho and Wild Apache. I myself am part Sioux, Cherokee and Cherakawa. I am proud of my history and have a certain natural instinct toward its protection. This brings me to why my first reaction to learning about these “Indians” is to be a bit angry. I am not trying to say that we should not celebrate the Native-Americans what I am saying is that we should not claim to be Native-Americans if we are not actually Native-Americans. In addition, to give yourself the name of a tribe with which you do not actually have any connection, for some reason just makes me very upset. Why should they call themselves by tribe names they are not a part of?

This is just one of the many strange and interesting things that I have encountered since moving to New Orleans. As I said earlier, I am ready and willing to learn more on this subject so bring it on.

82 Comments so far

  1. BDD (unregistered) on January 31st, 2006 @ 6:09 am

    Here it comes Blacks will now say that they are the real first indians……

  2. BDD (unregistered) on January 31st, 2006 @ 6:10 am

    Here it comes Blacks will now say that they are the real first indians……

  3. WAACP (unregistered) on January 31st, 2006 @ 6:15 am

    indians are a civil race unlike the black race. so please to try to say the blacks are now indians. Its a desgrace to the indian race to even think that blacks had anything to do with the indian race. The communnists wife died today!

  4. King TRUTH (unregistered) on January 31st, 2006 @ 6:57 am

    The truth About Martin Luther King, Jr

    the staff at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project discovered a lot of plagiarism in Martin Luther King’s writings and in a 1991 article in THE JOURNAL OF AMERICAN HISTORY said that “plagiarism was a general pattern evident in nearly all of his academic writings” including his doctoral dissertation. King plagiarized that too by borrowing from a speech given to the Republican convention in 1952 by an African-American preacher named Archibald Carey, Jr.
    Some of them say he gave Cary’s speech word-for-word. King did have a weakness for women and engaged in extramarital affairs. the FBI did document some sexual encounters involving Martin Luther King. His name wasn’t Martin Luther. It was Michael. It was decided Martin Luther had a more prominent ring to it, so he went by that. He never legally changed his name. To this day, he lived and died as Michael King. While working on his dissertation for his doctoral degree at Boston University, he heavily plagiarized from another author who had done research on a subject similar to King’s. As academic committee later found that over half of King’s work was plagiarized, yet would not revoke his doctrine. King was dead by this time, and the committee ruled that revoking the title would serve no purpose. It was also discovered that King’s famous I HAVE A DREAM speech was also not his own. He stole it from a sermon by Archibald Carey, a popular black preacher in the 1950’s. King was under FBI surveillance for several years (until he died) due to his ties with communist organizations throughout the country. King accepted money from the organizations to fund his movements. In return, King had to appoint communist leaders to run certain districts of his SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference), who then could project their communist ideas to larger audiences. A federal judge in the 60’s ruled that the FBI files on King links to communism to remain top-secret until 2027. Senator Jesse Helms appealed to the Supreme Court in
    1983 to release the files, so the correct bill in the Senate to create the Martin Luther King Federal Holiday could be abolished. He was denied. One of King’s closest friends, Rev. Ralph Abernathy, wrote a book in
    1989 in which he talked about King’s obsession with white prostitutes. King would often use church donations to have drunken sex parties, where he would hire two to three white prostitutes, occasionally beating them brutally. This has also been reported by the FBI agents who monitored King. King was married with four children.

    Martin Luther King Day. A day when this country will come to a screeching halt so we can have parades and memorials to honor this man, a man that most of the world views as a saint for his role in the civil rights movement. No other public holiday in the United States honors a single individual. Of all the great leaders in our Nation’s history-none of them have their own holiday. All of our great war heroes share Memorial Day. All of our great presidents share President’s Day. Yet king — a man who was a phony, a cheater, a traitor, and a sexual degenerate gets a day of his own.

    I have a big problem with that.

    I’m not trying to take anything away from African Americans, but I am trying to point out that
    (1) the vast majority of people are sorely mistaken about Michael King and
    (2) that reverse discrimination is blatantly obvious everywhere you look today.

    Been watching the news lately? President Bush just got himself in some hot water when he spoke out against the University of Michigan for giving black applicants precedence over more qualified white applicants. Now Jesse Jackson, the NAACP, and other black leaders are trashing him, without a doubt planning how they can use this against his reelection campaign.

    Think about that – Bush just made a stand for equal human rights, but low and behold — in this case they didn’t want to be treated as equals.

    Make up your minds. I feel like I belong to one of the more abused ethnic groups in this country today. Can I do anything about it? Absolutely not. If I dare speak out I’ll get labeled a racist, harassed by the media. Subsequently lose my job, and never be able to show my face in public again.

    But what I will do is send out this email to as many people I know in hopes that when you’re watching the evening news on Martin Luther King Day, and you see our politicians falling all over themselves to be filmed in a black church somewhere; you might stop and ask yourself “what about us?”

  5. Ann (unregistered) on January 31st, 2006 @ 9:55 am

    I have a big problem with historically inaccurate, inflamatory bullshit posted to gloat about the death of a courageous woman – on a thread about Mardi Gras!


  6. Craig (unregistered) on January 31st, 2006 @ 9:59 am

    Here’s an article from an independent media website, “An indigenous perspective on Dr. MLK: ‘To the common observer, it would appear that the only person who struggled for the rights of minorities was Dr. King, the SCLC and his Euro-American supporters. This myth has gone on unchallenged for more than 40 years. And within that forty-year period, the legend has grown and been manipulated and distorted in such a fashion as to support the conventional mainstream party line in America and it’s attitudes towards race. This inaccuracy of selective historical interpretation is in dire need of re-examination. Truth be told, Dr. King was only one of many who fought bravely for freedom from racial bigotry and its institutional origins in Euro-American based racism. But Dr. King has been brought to the forefront of the American consciousness by the Euro-American power structure – So in accordance with this underlying principle, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a “good” Negro worthy of their respect and deserving of a holiday in his honor. The collective Euro-American “admiration” for Dr. King manifested in his favor precisely because he believed in, and defended the White Christian American way of life. Time and time again, Dr. King asserted his “Americaness”, and lauded the American way as an honorable way.’”

  7. Ann (unregistered) on January 31st, 2006 @ 10:08 am

    I can’t agree that’s it’s gone unchallenged. There are a number of critical, but fair, biographies of King as well as numerous excellent works on other aspects of the civil rights movement which are not King-centric. BTW- King was virulently anti-Communist. He did however, believe in social, economic and political equality and equity, which I was brought up to believe was a very American perspective.


    p.s. Thanks for the link, Craig.

  8. Nolabitch (unregistered) on January 31st, 2006 @ 11:12 am


    you really should just delete the whole thread. it’s embarrassing.

  9. Kap (unregistered) on January 31st, 2006 @ 7:05 pm

    You must know that you touched a nerve by implying that our Mardi Gras Indians were ripping off Native Americans. Also, the fact that you became “naturally and uncontrollably upset” about something when you admitted that you didn’t know that much about it also could be the reason why you set so many of us off. It is unfortunate that your response to the first twelve comments was considerably less erudite than I would expect from a NOLA Metroblogger. For instance, you wrote this snide sentence in your reply: “Thanks a lot for all that help; you sure know how to make a new girl feel welcome.” You also wrote this: “I would have never guessed that you were all such inconsiderate assholes.” You also wrote this: “Whenever I need intelligent, helpful advice, I will look somewhere else.” Is it any wonder that we are upset at you? Your replies to the comments posted here constitute the same knee-jerk reactionary vitriol of which you are accusing the rest of us.

    We want to like you. We love the NOLA Metblog, and I’m guessing you wouldn’t be on it unless you were smart and savvy enough to handle it. You must understand, though, that what you write can be taken ANY number of ways. Your original post was a little aggressive in places and if you write something like that, people will get upset. I understand your question and why you asked it. However, it’s the WAY you asked it, and the implications you made, that got me and so many others a little miffed.

  10. Bev (unregistered) on February 2nd, 2006 @ 11:40 am

    Get away from the race bit – the Mardi Gras Indians are a part of the history of New O. Accept it… enjoy it… go to the Back Street Cultural Museum and learn about it. Sylvester and friends have done a marvelous job with the museum showing the traditions and costumes. I’m glad they all made it through Katrina and managed to save as much as they did. It’s part of New Orleans!

  11. Bud Mueller (unregistered) on February 2nd, 2006 @ 10:03 pm

    Bev, Just because it’s part of history, that does not make it right or moral. When a race of people tells you it pains them and that pain is ignored, that is the beginning of racism.

  12. Loki (unregistered) on February 5th, 2006 @ 2:19 pm

    I spoke with the Rev. Goat Carson, the native american who helped found White Buffalo Day, and he told me the following things:

    1)The relationship between the Native American Tribes and the Mardi Gras Indians is a close and fraternal one founded on love and respect.

    2)His take on MG Indian history is that the escaped slaves took refuge with the only people around who would help them, the indigenous tribes of native americans. Many of them intermarried and existed in a state of harmony devoid of racial persecution.

    3) White Buffalo Day (google it) is a celebration of both the Mardi Gras Indians and their reformed bond with native americans. This was betokened by the birth of the long awaited White Buffalo several years back.

    To me this does not sound like a group ripping off another group’s culture. I would say that if that is a major concern to anyone they should contact the actual tribal leaders of the native american community and ask them for their perspective.

    I would also suggest that the circular arguments on racism/ reverse racism (no such thing, it’s just simple racism pure and simple)/ and MLK be removed to a more appropriate forum.

    I’ll refrain from making any other comments at this time as I do not wish to fan any more flames.

  13. bonafide (unregistered) on February 6th, 2006 @ 9:43 am

    Wrong! “The Rev. Goat Carson” is a whiteman who did not grow up with the Cherokee people much less within the culturally Cherokee experience. For more information the widespread fake Indian’s, please visit the weblink provided below.

    “Pseudo-medicine quacks are passing themselves off as Native American spiritual leaders. Native American spirituality has become a fad to many New Age non-Indians and their naivete is being exploited to the limit by plastic medicine people, much to the dismay of traditional elders. Practicing Native American spirituality out of the context of Native American culture diminishes the integrity of both.

    Many of these people are white men and women who claim to be Indian spreading false rituals for profit. For the most part they have changed their names to Indian names to lend authenticity.

    One way to tell if these people are legitimate is whether they go into the Native American communities they claim to be from and perform the same rituals.”

    Spiritual Commodification and Misappropriation: What Native People Want You To Understand

  14. Ann (unregistered) on February 6th, 2006 @ 10:56 am

    I googled the good reverend and discovered that he is featured on the audio version of Prison Writings of Leonard Peltier, who, last I checked, was a “bonafide” Native American. He (Goat) is also featured prominently on the American Comments Magazine site which appears to run by other “real” Native Americans. I do not know if the man is a “real” Native American – but other prominent Native Americans seem to accept him as one, or least as an ally and friend.

    I am not poor, but I feel for the poor and work to alleviate their suffering. Likewise, I am not stricken with cancer, but I cry for those that are and contribute to research funds underwriting the search for a cure. I still hold that one does not need to experience a situation firsthand in order to empathize and sympathize with others, nor to celebrate and commenerate their culture.


    p.s. In reference to Loki’s post – the word “maroon” as in to strand or be stranded originates with the taking in of run-away slaves from the Portuguese and Spanish settlements by indigenous peoples of South America. It is derived from the Spanish words for “wild, savage” and “dark red” which certainly were words used by Europeans to describe the native population in the 17th and 18th centuries!

    p.p.s. Bonafide – I’d like you to define “white man.” What, or who, qualifies as a “white?” Just curious.

  15. Laurie (unregistered) on February 6th, 2006 @ 4:37 pm

    “There’s only one race of people!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”


  16. Ann (unregistered) on February 6th, 2006 @ 5:16 pm

    exactly my point, Laurie. :-)

  17. Laurie (unregistered) on February 6th, 2006 @ 6:01 pm

    I didn’t know that about maroon – I think it’s cool colour!



  18. S Lyons (unregistered) on February 10th, 2006 @ 11:11 am

    Get a grip little girl – you have to be a little girl to be so naive as to think that as the Native Americans embraced the slaves (who were of various mixed races such as French, Spanish, Dutch and every other European race that swooped through New Orleans during the slave days), they also coexisted, married and had children with these various Native American tribes that owned the land in and around the City of New Orleans. Those children were the beginnings of our Creole heritage. So when you ask why they choose to call themselves something they are not – remember this – they can’t change who they are – only celebrate it! As part Native American yourself, you of all people should understand that!!!!!

  19. Laurie (unregistered) on February 10th, 2006 @ 1:47 pm

    Creole was a term used to define the first filial generation of when the

    French of the “New World”-us brought over a bunch of

    “Old World” Spanish from Spain.

    The children of these two cultures are Creole, every generation

    after that chose and was not called Creole but are Creole descendents.

    The Spanish were not brought over as slaves after all Spain

    had owned Louisine’ first, it was a gesture of good will.

    You get your facts right.

    You seem to think that Creole means a mix of black and white those are mullato.

    Sabines are a mix of Indian to European or a mix of Italion to French.

    Not every one was a slave and many French were endentured servants!


  20. bonafide (unregistered) on February 11th, 2006 @ 12:02 pm

    Laurie & Ann, You are both correct. There is only one race, the human race but that doesn’t diminish nor erase the fact that the United State’s will still be held accountable for high crimes: genocide and theft of indigenous lands.

    To the Mardi Gras “Indians”: When your Indian blood has reached a microscopic drop (not to mention the fact that NONE of you are an enrolled member of any federally or state recognized tribe), at what point does a descendant stop claiming or practice being an American Indian? Has the Mardi Gras “Indians” stepped into the realm of identify theft, so far removed from reality of the experience of a real Native American? Your Black (or white) blood has bled out the Indian blood. THAT MEANS YOU ARE NO LONGER INDIAN!!!!!

    “Fakers and phonies and frauds, egad: There ought to be a law

    The pseudo-Indians should not be held harmless. They should be made to pay. There ought to be a law.

    Non-Indians are pretending to be Indians for profit of some kind – for tenure, a job, a book contract, a record deal, a movie role. Look into the eyes of a pseudo-Indian and you see gold.

    A new cause of action for Native nations should be more than a cease and desist order. Budding pseudo-Indians should know that there are potential consequences for identity theft.”

  21. Laurie (unregistered) on February 11th, 2006 @ 1:04 pm

    Aren’t Indians in the same boat with hyphenation; they are Americans’ first?

    The Celts have a greater claim on the “native” thing.

    Archeologist still don’t who came here first!


  22. Ann (unregistered) on February 11th, 2006 @ 5:17 pm

    Bonafide- I must admit, I almost posted a lengthy response to you. Then, I realized you have either not read this entire thread, are deliberately ignoring the history of the Mardi Gras tribes, or possibly both. So, I will not reinvent the wheel. Instead, I will simply say that you are wrong on many counts – including the one about “there oughta be a law.” There is.


    p.s. Laurie – last research I saw about Celtic settlements was based on speculation with little to no hard evidience. Even if there were concrete sites that directly linked the early Celts to the continent, they would not predate the earliest Native American sites. Sites in north Louisiana – primarily Frenchman’s Bend but also the astounding mound complex at Poverty Point, though it’s a bit later- all put organized native societies in the area as early 3700 B.C. – about 5000 years ago. The Celt activity I am assuming you are referring to, if true, dates to 800 B.C. at the earliest, so the Celts lose by about 3000 years! :-) (I must admit, I think it’s grand that the Irish have something on the Brits. It makes my Irish eyes smile. Although, as we know, I can’t really say they’re Irish eyes; The American blood “bled out” the Irish long ago! ;-P )

  23. Laurie (unregistered) on February 11th, 2006 @ 8:42 pm

    What’s the latest on the Chinese, Polynesisiansians or other eastern peoples

    gettin’ here first, boats were made out of wood and the bones would be completely gone by now?!

    The Puppy is here!!!

    Yep, I said a puppy!!!

    She had a puppy in her first litter too.

    My dog doesn’t have litters; all of the scientific knowledge is Wrong!

    I was the first American!

    I’ve been reeincarnated so many times that I can’t remember it or prove it yet.

    My dog’s running for governor!



  24. Ann (unregistered) on February 12th, 2006 @ 9:35 am

    I totally think the island peoples were far more mobile than they are given credit for. They can make boats and settle Tahiti and Easter Island – but we’re supposed to believe they didn’t make it from Hawaii to California!?! puh-leeze! I also can accept the idea of the Japanese and Chinese getting here before the Spanish as well – they were fabulous seafarers and techogeeks before they shut themselves from the world. I also believe there was contact between the indigenous peoples of Central and South America and Africa. The whole Eurocentric presentation of history is a load of hooey!

    If I was still registered in Louisiana, I’d vote for your dog – as long as it was yellow! :-)


  25. Laurie (unregistered) on February 12th, 2006 @ 11:40 am

    She is yellow!!

    My dog has one vote for governor!

    How about your turtle, and your hamster?

    If the Australian Aborigines are 40,000 plus years old

    whose to say they haven’t been here!

    Any one have an Australian Aborigine star zodiac; I’m trying to

    find out whether I’m a kangaroo or a boomarang?

    Hey guys, drop the native part just say American,

    watch their faces contort a li’l.


  26. Laurie (unregistered) on February 12th, 2006 @ 11:45 am

    Any island out there they needed a boat or a raft

    or a dingy to get there in order to settle it in the the first place.


  27. John (unregistered) on February 12th, 2006 @ 10:36 pm
  28. Laurie (unregistered) on February 17th, 2006 @ 12:00 am

    I’m over here with my ear to the floor listening for buffalo.

    Gizmo has world problems, complaining, howling and learning

    how to bark or something close to it, whines mostly, beneath the bed room floo’!


  29. Danielle (unregistered) on February 18th, 2006 @ 6:43 pm

    God is good he loves us even if we’re black or white,or a different color. He even gives us a second chance.Don’t blow your only chance to get into heaven .Your beautiful in gods eyes .If your lonely just pray, your not alone.

  30. Joy (unregistered) on February 23rd, 2006 @ 1:03 pm

    I just found this blog while trying to see if there was any news about the Mardi Gras Indians coming out this year. My usual routine MG morning is to walk up to the Wild Magnolia’s bar to watch chiefs come together and see who is prettiest. Then I head down later in the afternoon under the overpass by Claiborne to see the downtown MG Indians. Super Sunday always makes it onto my calendar as well.

    I was glad to find the info about the Wild Magnolias (thanks Loki). I skimmed through the whole posting frenzy and have just one observation to add.

    I was in Angola during their Carnival a few years ago (Angola, the country in Africa; not Angola, the Prison). I was floored when I saw a group in a parade that reminded me of the Mardi Gras Indians! They didn’t have full feathers and weren’t mimicing Native American tribes, but a few elements of the costumes were striking.

    I would have to dig it up the photo a box at home, but I could do that if anyone was intersted.

  31. Summer Whiterock (unregistered) on February 28th, 2006 @ 1:52 pm

    well i am pretty much not suprised at all the comments being posted. and yet i have to agree with what was said about the people claiming to be native american, and yet when they say the tribe its always cherokee or sioux.There are many more tribes than just those. what i was told by my grandma who is 96 years old that the white men or whatever the race was would rape the indian women to get them pregnant. and in my ancestral background i have some either german or irish in the bloodline from my ancestors. to me it seems like people dont even know the facts at all, when it comes to native americans. and all native americans have bows & arrows and scalp the white people. may i ask a question for all you people to answer. Do you really know what a redskin really is?? redskin comes from when the white people selling the scalps of women and children and the “redskin part comes from having the skin being red from the blood, people i dont know what kind would buy these “souvenirs”. i really dont know about how you guys portray a native american to look like? Like the Washington Redskins mascot? i just hate the sterotype labels on native americans.
    My name is summer whiterock, i am Shoshone-Pauite, i am seventeen years old and i live on a reservation. and i read up on stuff like this. i mean what else can i say??

  32. Lil Doug (unregistered) on February 28th, 2006 @ 7:47 pm

    Ya know,
    If she is Native American, my wife is half, then she has a legitimate gripe. But, that’s where things are going these days. I know people don’t keep up much the smaller LA Universities, but, Northeastern is changing it’s mascot, “The Indians”, to god knows what. Now can you imagine the upset people there would be if they found “Tigers” or “Jaguars” offensive. Why wouldn’t the Mardi Gras Indians be next ones the chopping block? I think the only reason it took this long is that most people outsite LA. know nothing about them. What do y’all think?

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