Mardi Gras Indians Super Sunday, New Orleans

 Mardi Gras Indians on Super Sunday:

New Orleans’ Next Generation

 

Like most people outside of New Orleans, we knew nothing about the cultural heritage of NOLA’s Mardi Gras Indians until we watched the HBO show Treme.

 

Created  by David Simon and Eric Overmyer (The Wire), the show follows residents from the historic Tremé (pronounced Tre-may) neighborhood– a hodgepodge of musicians, chefs, community activists and Mardi Gras Indians– struggling to put their lives, homes and culture back together in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

 

IMG_1408

 

Historically a racially mixed neighborhood, Tremé has long been populated by free people of color (even before and during the Civil War, thanks to the period of Spanish rule). Today, it remains the center of the city’s rich musical and culinary culture– the place where African-American and Créole traditions intersect. Jazz was born there, along with the traditions of Second Line brass bands and Mardi Gras Indians.

 

IMG_1507

 

Our favorite Treme characters were Albert Lambreaux and his son, Delmond, whose relationship was based on the true story of jazz saxophonist Donald Harrison, Jr. (a consultant and actor on the show) and his father. Albert is the “Big Chief” of the Guardians of the Flame tribe (which Donald Harrison, Sr. founded), who struggles to repair his home and the neighborhood bar where his tribe practices every Sunday while working to bring the displaced members back to the city. This includes Del, a successful trumpeter now living in New York.

 

Mardi Gras Indians on Super Sunday in New Orleans

 

Diagnosed with cancer, Albert desperately wants his son to move back home, embrace his Mardi Gras Indian culture, and assume the role of Big Chief when Albert dies. Their lives center around two things: Practicing ritualistic chants such as “Indian Red,” which descend from ancient African traditions; and sewing elaborate costumes (with hundreds of feathers and thousands of crystals) which they will wear only twice– once on Mardi Gras, and once on Super Sunday– before destroying them.

 

IMG_1511

 

Super Sunday is typically held on the third Sunday of March, in celebration of the Catholic holiday of St. Joseph’s Day. But because the Mardi Gras Indians put so much time, energy and money into their costumes (each one takes 9 months to a year to make, and costs upwards of $5000), and feathers do not look good when wet, they cancel the event anytime there’s a threat of rain. Luckily for us, Super Sunday 2014 was postponed until March 30, and we were delighted to be able to attend a cultural festival unlike anything we’d ever seen.

 

Mardi Gras INdians on Super Sunday in New Orleans

 

A.L. Davis Park, in NOLA’s Central City district, was already swarming with people by the time we arrived, nearly two hours before the beginning of the parade. Vendors were set up alongside the road, and the delicious scents of grilled meats, boiling crawfish, fried shrimp po boys and funnel cake vied for our appetite’s attention.

 

IMG_1519

 

There was an electricity in the air as everyone waited for the parade to start. You could see the Mardi Gras Indians’ colorful costumes laid out at the corners of the park, most with Native American or African tribal themes in their remarkable beadwork. Some, like the one pictured at the top of this page, told stories, depicting the first encounter between the Buffalo Soldiers (black soldiers in the U.S. Cavalry in the late 1800s) and Native Americans.

 

IMG_1546

 

As I walked around with my 12-year-old daughter, marveling at the Mardi Gras Indians’ artful craftsmanship, what struck me the most was how much of a family affair Super Sunday was. Fathers and sons, mothers and daughters put on their matching costumes side by side.

 

IMG_1558

 

Nearly every “Big Chief,” the patriarchal leader of the tribe, was accompanied by his dancing “Queen.” Older sons occasionally served as “Spy Boys,” walking ahead of the tribe to clear a path through the thronged masses of people angling for a photo. Costumed kids ranged in age from around 2 years old to older teens, gamely trudging along behind their parents, strutting their stuff, and proudly showing off their costumes for the crowd.

 

Mardi Gras Indians on Super Sunday in New Orleans

 

It was overwhelming and insane and altogether one of the most amazing cultural experiences I’ve ever had a chance to experience. And it was all the more rewarding because my kiddo, Alex was right there by my side, moving quickly through huge crowds of people and jostling for position to get within a few feet of the Mardi Gras Indians. As a matter of fact, my not-so-little 12-year-old took more than 80% of the photos on this page!

 

Mardi Gras Indians on Super Sunday in New Orleans

 

It seemed somehow appropriate that, as the Mardi Gras Indians passed down an African-American tradition that dates back to the mid-1800s, I was passing down my love of culture and photography to my child. We’ll have a more in-depth story about the storied history of the Mardi Gras Indians coming soon (including an interview with Donald Harrison Jr.). But, in the meantime, we wanted to honor the children who will carry our historic legacies forward, preserving them for future generations.  –by Bret Love; photos by Bret Love & Alex Love

 

Our trip was sponsored in part by the New Orleans CVB, but our opinions remain our own.

 

If you enjoyed our post on the Mardi Gras Indians Super Sunday, you might also like: 

LOUISIANA: Mardi Gras Indians Celebrate Super Sunday in New Orleans

LOUISIANA: Treme, New Orleans: Birthplace of American Culture

INTERVIEW: Ben Jaffe on Preservation Hall Jazz Band & New Orleans

LOUISIANA: Charmed at New Orleans’ Historic Voodoo Museum

LOUISIANA: The Best Oysters in New Orleans

LOUISIANA: An Insider’s Guide to Mardi Gras in New Orleans

 

57 Responses to Mardi Gras Indians Super Sunday: NOLA’s Next Generation

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

Check out our NEW Fair Trade Boutique!

Fair Trade Boutique
Co-Founded by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett, Green Global Travel is an ecotourism, nature / wildlife conservation & cultural preservation magazine. More about us.

Help Support Green Global Travel!

Each time you make a purchase on Amazon.com using the link below, we'll earn a small percentage, at no extra cost to you.


Amazon

Follow Us

As Seen In:

Destinations We’ve Covered:

• AFRICA
Egypt- Top 5 Eco Attractions
Madagascar- Ring-tailed Lemurs at Anja Reserve
Morocco- A Journey into the Atlas Mountains
South Africa- Londolozi Game Reserve Safari
South Africa- Kruger National Park
South Africa- South Africa- Zulu Memories
Tanzania- Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro

 
• ANTARCTICA
How To Get To Antarctica w/out Doing the Drake
The Haunting Beauty of Icebergs
Penguins of Antarctica
Taking the Polar Plunge
Top 5 Eco Attractions in Antarctica
Whales of Antarctica
 
• ASIA
Borneo- Sabah Ecotourism Attractions
India- Ranthambhore National Park
India- Tibetan Culture In Ladakh
Laos- The Pastoral Paradise of Muang Ngoi
Malaysia- Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre
Malaysia- Orangutan Conservation at Sepilok
Nepal- Hiking The Annapurna Circuit
Taiwan- Top 5 Eco Activities in Taipei
Thailand- Top 5 National Parks
 
• AUSTRALIA/OCEANIA
Australia- Top 5 Eco Attractions
Australia-Kangaroo Island
Australia-Maria Island
New Zealand- Kapiti Island
New Zealand- Tongariro National Park
New Zealand- Top 5 Ecotourism Attractions
Tahiti- First Impressions
Tahiti- Photo Gallery
Tahiti- Moorea 4x4 Safari Tour
Tahiti- Moorea, Tiki Village Theater
Tahiti- Pearl Diving in Bora Bora
Tahiti- Ruahatu Marine Sanctuary, Bora Bora
Tahiti- Swimming With Sharks in Bora Bora
Tonga- Eua Island Eco Activities

 

• NORTH AMERICA
CANADA
Churchill- Into the Wild of Manitoba
Churchill- Polar Bear Fight
Churchill- Polar Bear Photo Gallery
Churchill- Tundra Wildlife

UNITED STATES
America’s Best Volcanoes
AL- Fishing Mobile Bay
AL- Mobile Carnival Museum
AK- Denali National Park
CA- Hiking The John Muir Trail
FL- Sanibel Island Eco Activities
FL- Crystal River, Swimming with Manatees
FL- Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge
GA- Barnsley Gardens
GA- Top 5 Autumn Activities Around Atlanta
GA- Best Christmas Light Displays
GA- Top 20 Atlanta Christmas Events
GA- Jekyll Island Eco Activities
GA- Weekend in North GA Mountains
GA- Top 5 Eco Attractions in North GA
HI- Hawaii’s Big Island
HI- Hawaiian Mythology
HI - Top 5 Kauai Nature Attractions
LA- Lafayette Cajun Food Tour
LA- Mardi Gras Indians Super Sunday
LA- Voodoo Museum
MT- Hiking Glacier National Park
NC- Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge
NC- Asheville's Green Restaurants Scene
NC- Asheville's Top Ecotourism Attractions
NC- Greensboro Travel Guide
NC- Great Smoky Mountains National Park
NC- Outer Banks Wild Horses
NM- Top 5 Eco Attractions
NY- Going Green in NYC
TX- Sea Turtle Rescue, South Padre Island
WV- Outdoor Adventures
Yellowstone- Mammoth Hot Springs
Yellowstone- Lamar Valley
Yellowstone- Grand Canyon & Hayden Valley
Yellowstone- Upper Geyser Basin
Yellowstone- Lower Geyser Basin

MEXICO
Cancun- Cancun Underwater Museum
Cancun- Mayan Museum of Archaeology
Cancun- Swimming with Whale Sharks
Riviera Maya- Monkeys, Pyramids & Pottery
Riviera Maya- Rio Secreto
Riviera Maya- Tulum & Coba
 
• CARIBBEAN