Mardi Gras Indians

The history of this culture is primarily an oral one told through songs and chants much like the way stories of the past are told by African griots. Most agree that the custom of Blacks “masking” (costuming) Indian began in the mid-19th century as a way to honor the Native Americans with whom slaves found refuge when they sought freedom from their (mutual) oppressors. The "Mardi Gras Indian" tribes of New Orleans are, in fact, the oldest cultural organizations surviving from the original African tribes which were brought into New Orleans during slavery days. The tribes are particularly noted for preserving African "dress art" and musical heritage in the New World. The sewing and beadwork incorporated in Mardi Gras Indian suits, which are destroyed and redesigned each year, are widely considered to be the finest example of traditional African-American folk art in North America. Mardi Gras Indian "tribes" have t heir own indigenous chants which has had a profound impact on New Orleans music.