Mardi Gras Indians are an iconic a part of New Orleans parade culture.
Also referred to as Black Masking Indians, the group refers to Black men who dress up in colorful beaded suits influenced by Native American culture and who often have Native American ancestry.
They wear suits made from feathers, beads and other materials as of how recognizing the history of oppression and racism that Indigenous and African people have experienced within the US for hundreds of years , also as of how celebrating New Orleans as a cultural melting pot dating back to its youth .
In the 1800s, mainstream Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans were held in predominantly white and affluent communities, excluding many of the poorer people living within the city.
“Mardi Gras is simply the day that we use to rebel against what Mardi Gras has historically been: each day where Black people couldn’t enjoy Mardi Gras an equivalent way people enjoyed Mardi Gras,” Gizmo, a Mardi Gras Indian who requested to not use his surname for privacy reasons.
Gizmo may be a member of the Wild Tchoupitoulas, only one out of several “crews” of Mardi Gras Indians who work and march together. Crews are named after Native American tribes and have developed their own culture and traditions over time.
It’s hard to inform just by watching a Mardi Gras Indian’s suit the sheer amount of labor that goes into making one. Gizmo designs and sews all of his own suits, which he said requires significant amounts of your time , money and energy. But he does it for the enjoyment of dressing abreast of Mardi Gras morning and celebrating a culture that was traditionally denied to Black people.
“That’s what I’m getting to use Mardi Gras for – it’s my day to try to to something woke and Black every single year,” Gizmo said.