All About Mardi Gras Indians

BATON ROUGE, La. (THE LOUISIANA WEEKEND) - Carnival season in Louisiana is unlike anywhere else in the world. Carnival season is celebrated from Epiphany or Three Kings Day until Mardi Gras Day or Fat Tuesday. There are so many traditions highlighted and honored during this time. From endless Mardi Gras parades to the extravagance of Mardi Gras balls, there is always someone to see, something to do, and beads to catch. One of the most memorable and exciting things to see is a parade of Mardi Gras Indians.

Mardi Gras Indians, or Black Masking Indians (as some prefer to be called) parade through the streets of New Orleans on Mardi Gras day and on Super Sunday. This is a long-held tradition as masking began prior to World War II. On both days, Mardi Gras Indians dress in their handmade suits and feathers and greet other tribes. This year, Mardi Gras is February 21, 2023. The New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian Council holds Super Sunday on the third Sunday in March. This year, Super Sunday is March 19, 2023.

The suits worn by Mardi Gras Indians are extremely significant. Each person makes their suit by hand. This includes hand beadings. Most begin on their suits the day after Mardi Gras. It takes about a year to make a suit. Each suit holds new meaning. The Mardi Gras Indian tells a story through their suit. They wear new suits each year. If you have the privilege to speak to or come near a Mardi Gras Indian, please do not touch their suits or feathers. Their suits are extremely special to them. You may ask to take a picture as seeing a suit up close is really an awesome sight.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Big Queen Tonya of the Wild Tchoupitoulas Indians. She shared the history of the Mardi Gras Indians, the importance of their suits, and their ceremonial dance.