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GoNOLA Guide to Mardi Gras Indian Super Sunday

Flag boys, spy boys, and the incredible tradition of Mardi Gras Indian Super Sunday.

A member of the 7th Ward Head Hunters tribe on Mardi Gras Indian Super Sunday 2015. (Photo: Paul Broussard)

Everywhere else, “Super Sunday” probably means NFL football, game-watching parties, and sports bars. But here in New Orleans, Super Sunday is one of the few times a year you can see the spectacular suits and rituals of Mardi Gras Indians.

The Mardi Gras Indian tradition dates back more than a century. Since the 1880s, African-Americans mask as Indian with their tribes and debut breathtaking, hand-sewn outfits to each other and to the public.

In recent years, Big Chiefs such as the late Allison “Tootie” Montana and the late Bo Dollis paved way for the Indians to compete to be masked in the prettiest suit. Suits are demonstrations of hard work, artistry, cultural preservation, and talent, and Mardi Gras Indians acknowledge the craftsmanship of another suit simply by calling it “pretty.”

For those unfamiliar with the tradition, or those looking for the local scoop for how to enjoy it, read on:

A member of the 7th Ward Head Hunters tribe on Mardi Gras Indian Super Sunday 2015. (Photo: Paul Broussard)

Super Sunday 2017

When: This year’s Super Sunday falls on St. Joseph’s Day, March 19, 2017. The festival begins at 11 a.m. and the parade begins at 1 p.m.

Where: The festival takes place at A.L. Davis Park (at the corner of Washington Avenue and LaSalle Street), and the procession begins from here as well. The parade then moves onto Simon Bolivar Avenue, turns left onto Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, turns left onto Claiborne Ave., turns left onto Washington Ave., and finishes back at A.L. Davis Park.

Tribes you might see: There are about 30 tribes participating, and sizes of tribes range from a few people to over a dozen. You might catch sight of the Red Flame Hunters, a youth group, or perhaps the Wild Tchoupitoulas or Wild Magnolias.

After-parade activities: Expect an array of cultural activities and live music. Bands accompanying the New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian tribes will include Hot 8 Brass Band, Big Al Carson, Young Men Olympians, Young Pinstripe Brass Band, D.J. Captain Charles, Lady Buckjumpers, To Be Continued Brass Band, D.J. Jubilee, and the B.R.W. Singing Group.

Lagniappe: This year’s event honors late Big Chief Bo. Dollis Sr., Big Chief Larry Bannock, and Jo “Cool” Davis.

The Golden Blades Mardi Gras Indians. (Photo: Rebecca Ratliff)

LEARN SOME LINGO

Big Chief: Tribe member who leads the tribe’s procession and knows how to design/sew ornate suits and lead chants and dances (some tribes may have Second Chief or Third Chief, too)

Spy Boy: The first Mardi Gras Indian you’ll see, who signals any approaching Indian tribes to the Big Chief

Flag Boy: Tribe member who carries the “gang flag” and helps to pass information between the Spy Boy and Big Chief

Suit: The intricate suits that Mardi Gras Indians craft by hand and wear just a few times a year; filled with intricate sewing, feathers, and beadwork and often contain social commentary

*Note: Learn more about the creation of these suits and hear from the artists themselves here!

Pretty: A compliment given to a Mardi Gras Indian in a beautiful, eye-catching suit

Tribes: Neighborhood-based groups in New Orleans that create elaborate suits to show during Carnival season; they use artistic talent, community, and incredible stamina to maintain their traditions and display their talents

To learn more about Mardi Gras Indians, visit www.mardigrasindiancouncil.org.

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