Black Indians in New Orleans

Although many writers and scholars refer to the African-American tribes of “Indians” in New Orleans as “Mardi Gras Indians”, I have chosen not to, due to the inaccuracy of the term. For one thing, the men do not refer to themselves in that way. They simply call themselves “Indians” and their organizations “tribes” or more often “gangs”. For another, “Mardi Gras Indians” suggests that these organizations are functional one day a year, when in reality their activity is nearly year-round in scope, involving sewing of costumes and weekly rehearsals. The Indian gangs are visible to the public on Mardi Gras Day, St. Joseph’s Day, and since the early 1970’s, also on the Uptown and Downtown Super Sundays. They have also become a fixture at each year’s Jazz Fest, and are more visible on stage at other times of year. So, for the lack of a better term, I have chosen the designation “Black Indians”, the name given to similar groups in Trinidad as the most descriptively accurate term possible, and so as to avoid confusion with Native Americans or with people from India.