It’s Mardi Gras, laissez le bon temps rouler! One of many attractions during Mardi Gras season? Mardi Gras Indians!
If not all, most Mardi Gras Indians are African American. The relationship between Native Americans and then slaves dates back to the 18th century. The formation of the relationship is likely because they had a common enemy: the white man. The fight for land and the fight for freedom; however, the fight against the white man is no longer at the focal point.
These days, Mardi Gras Indians are organized into tribes and battle each other through homemade costumes and suites, dancing, singing and chanting. You can find them in action during Mardi Gras, on Super Sunday and Bayou St. John and other places throughout New Orleans.
Although you’ll hear a number of people claim Native American ancestry (that’s another discussion for another day), there doesn’t appear to be much of a relationship between Native American tribes and Mardi Gras Indians today. On the surface, one could immediately claim appropriation. On the other hand, we know that the adoption of the costumes and chants derive from Native Americans. New Orleanians have the ability to incorporate traditions from other cultures and make it a part of everyday life. So back to my original question: A case for appropriation or nah?
Oh, and Happy Mardi Gras!