The Mardi Gras Indians are a unique cultural phenomenon peculiar to New Orleans. The Indians sprang out of cultural milieu of freed African slaves and American Indian customs specifically in their costuming. But the Mardi Gras Indians of New Orleans did it one better with massive over-the-top feathered and embroidered costumes, nonsense African-inspired chants and ritual Afro-based drumming.
With the production of the hit HBO series Treme the Mardi Gras Indians, previously only known in New Orleans, has now gotten exposure world-wide.
Here is the thing about New Orleans culture: although a lot of it is for show to visitors, you know, Mardi Gras, brass bands, music in the streets and all the festivals, it really is our authentic culture and would exist even if all tourists stopped coming tomorrow and forever. It would all still go on.
Here is a great article from The Economist which provides an excellent and in depth account of our Mardi Gras Indians.
Hurricane Katrina did a number on the Mardi Gras Indians with many members being scattered to the four corners, some taking years to finally get back to the city. It seems though that the Indians are stronger than ever. More power to them.
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