MARDI GRAS INDIANS’ CELEBRATION IS AN ACT OF DEFIANCE
By Awa Gueye
February 27, 2020
We all know about Mardi Gras, but do we know about the Mardi Gras Indians?
They are the Black men, most with Native American ancestry, who dress up in suits influenced by Native American culture. They are also known as the Black Masking Indians. These men wear colorful beaded suits, sometimes feathered too, adorned as physical reminders of the trying history of oppression faced by Blacks and Native Americans. They wear these clothes with pride and celebration for New Orleans and its multi-cultural environment.
This form of expression began as a political statement of defiance against the history of Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Back in the 1800s, annual celebrations excluded people of color and were held in predominantly rich, white communities. Now, the Mardi Gras Indians dress up for the joy of celebrating something that was traditionally denied to Black people.
The Huffington Post spoke to one Mardi Gras Indian named Gizmo from the Wild Tchoupitoulas “krewe” (named after a Native American tribe). These crews march and work together, and some design their own clothes for the event. Gizmo explained that he designs and sews all of his Mardi Gras suits, exerting a lot of energy and spending a lot of time and money on them. Of the celebration and why he does this, he explained: “Mardi Gras is just the day that we use to rebel against what Mardi Gras has historically been: a day where Black people couldn’t enjoy Mardi Gras the same way other people enjoyed Mardi Gras.”
Happy Mardi Gras to these rebellious, joyous krewes of light!