Mardi Gras Indian Tribe
In March 2009 the American Festivals Project headed to New Orleans, where African Americans have been "masking Indian" for Mardi Gras since the 1880s. Some say the inspiration was a touring Wild West show; others say it was to honor Indians who aided runaway slaves. No one really knows. The Mardi Gras Indian ritual includes songs and dances, fellowship, and rivalry.
The evening of March 19—St. Joseph's Night—is the main event for Mardi Gras Indians. Each tribe, such as the Seventh Ward Creole Hunters, seen here, heads uptown to sing, dance, and square off in showy displays for respect.
Read more about the Mardi Gras Indians on the American Festivals Project blog.
Mardi Gras Indians
See photos of 2009 Mardi Gras Indians in New Orleans in this American Festivals Project travel photo gallery from National Geographic.