New Orleans Mardi Gras Indians: Fighting with a Needle and Thread

I moved to New Orleans from France about a year ago, and have since fallen completely in love with the city, the culture, and the people, and I just had to share these pictures and a little story about the New Orleans Mardi Gras Indians.

There are 38 tribes of Mardi Gras Indians that come from all around New Orleans, including the traditionally low-income areas like the 9th Ward. The Indians spend thousands of man-hours each year hand-beading and hand sewing these incredible costumes. It takes about 9 months to complete a single suit. When they are finished, they can weigh up to 100 pounds. Then they all parade around town singing, dancing, and chanting the songs of their particular tribe. The songs typically consist of a unique mixture of African/Native American dialect and musical influence.

Here’s the crazy part…… The tribes used to function like actual gangs, so when they would come across other tribes, there would often be bloodshed. But in the late 1960′s, Big Chief Tootie Montana fought to end violence between the Mardi Gras Indian Tribes, saying that he would make them “stop fighting with the gun and the knife and start fighting with the needle and thread.” Now when they encounter other tribes, they argue over the “prettiness” of their suits and have an intense song and dance battle. If you are ever in New Orleans around Mardi Gras or St. Josephs Day, you’ve got to try to catch one of their parades. There is nothing like it. Until then, enjoy a couple pictures I captured at the last St. Josephs Day parade.

More pictures available here.

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