Feathers, Sequins, and Secrets

Later this month I’m going to Mississippi to hang with family, soak in some sunshine, and partake of the tastiest food this fine country has to offer.

True, all three of those things can be done while eating tater tots in the Sonic parking lot, but we are expanding our itinerary to include some more seasonal rights of passage.

This time, in addition to Jackson’s legendary St. Patrick’s day parade  (now Sans Sweet Potato Queens scandal), we are hoping to make a quick trip down to New Orleans for some Irish music and Indian heritage. Yes, I said Indians…

Lookahere!


This year March 17th also coincides with St. Joseph’s Day, one of the few days of the year the Mardi Gras Indians* return to New Orleans. It’s a thing to see. It’s not so much a formal parade with a set route and time, so much as it is a march. People get together and march in a procession. That’s a very New Orleanian thing to do. I don’t know any place in the world where people will drop anything for an impromptu, circuitous parade.

Saint day? Parade.
Someone dies? Parade.
Restaurant opening? Parade
Star Wars convention in town? Parade!

*Listen, don’t nobody email me some PC crap about Indian being a forbidden word – in this case it is a self-proclaimed title. I’m just following their lead.

“Mardi Gras is full of secrets, and the Mardi Gras Indians are as much a part of that secret society as any other carnival organization. The Mardi Gras Indians are comprised, in large part, of the African-American communities of New Orleans’ inner city. They have paraded for well over a century, yet their parade is perhaps the least recognized Mardi Gras tradition.
– Larry Bannock, President, New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian Council.

Photos courtesy of the American Craft Council

Background

Most Mardi Gras organizations will form a krewe, often named Roman or Greek god. The ranking structure of a Mardi Gras krewe is a parody of royalty; king, queen, dukes, knights and captains, and so on. Many more established krewes allowed membership by invitation only.  Being part of a krewe, any krewe, is to belong to a club.

Back in the day, many New Orleans natives felt uncomfortable participating the typical parade hierarchy, so a handful of African-American neighborhoods developed their own style of celebration. Their krewes are named for imaginary Indian tribes according to the streets of their ward or gang. Naming themselves after native Indians was a way to pay respect, as, back in the day, it was often the local Indians who were first to accept slaves into their society.

So here we have a little slice of American history packing into a whirling flourish of sequins and feathers. 

Oh Hell Yes.

Read more about the Mardi Gras Indians and their secretive ways.

Go visit my favorite New Orleanian, my craftastic sister Suzonne.

Comments

  1. says

    I would love a toned down version of one of those costumes. They must be worth a fortune with all those ostrich feathers. I didn’t know Jackson had a famous St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Tell us all about it. Bring back some catfish recipes, ya hear?

  2. Anonymous says

    My Son and Daughter-in-Law were in New Orleans this year for Mardi Gras and they said it was beautiful. Envious? You bet I am!!!!!

    • says

      I don’t even know. The Sweet Potato queens got their start in that parade, so I don’t know what would have caused the rift. I understand they started another one called the Zippity Doo Dah parade. Or something. I have yet to join the ranks, so I don’t know the dirt!

    • says

      I’ve been gone from Jackson for 10 years now and just recently realized there was some parade drama going down. But it is the South, we’ve always got some sort of drama. I love Hal and Mal’s and their wonderful parade. HAVE FUN!

  3. says

    I am totally offended by your use of the word…..Ha! Just kidding!!!!!!! I love those crazy wacky Indian outfits! I had no idea such a thing existed! I am so jealous and want to go watch! Thanks for the feather, glitter covered history lesson. Only you, Peaches, could find us some history that comes with sequins. :)

  4. says

    Hi! I live in New Orleans and must say I was quite pleased to discover this article. I’ve been a long time reader. I love your re-use of surplus Mardi Gras beads. Did you know that these costumes are constructed of cardboard boxes underneath all those feathers and beads? It’s really neat. I’ve had opportunities to see them up close. If you get a chance while in NOLA, check out the Golden Feather. It’s a restaurant and Mardi Gras Indian Museum. Happy travels! -April

    • says

      Cardboard? For real? Oh my goodness, I had no idea. I wish I knew one so I could see the underside or one in process. I read in an article that they are expected to be new each time they come out? That’s crazy! Thanks for the tip on the Golden Feather. Duly noted!

  5. says

    Next time someone asks how I am I’m going to tell them I’m “SPANGTACULAR”! Thanks, Ginny, sounds like you’ll grow up in the Peaches glitter tradition.

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