Who Are the Mardi Gras Indians?page 1 / 4
With tribal names like the Wild Magnolias, Congo Nation and the 9th Ward Hunters, the story of the Mardi Gras Indians is as colorful as the exotic costumes that they don for the annual Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans each year. The Mardi Gras Indians, all of African-American heritage, have been parading since the early 1800's, just as long as the white Mardi Gras krewes, but were segregated for many years. But, how did African-Americans come to wear the traditional dress of Native Americans?
Louisiana was the first port of call for shackled slaves shipped to America from Africa and the Caribbean. One theory maintains that native Louisiana tribes offered shelter to runaway slaves while another asserts that Buffalo Bill's Wild West traveling show used African-Americans to imitate native traditions and rituals. Either way, when the Mardi Gras Indians dress in tribal costumes, which they call “masking”, for parades, they are magnificent to behold.