The Lousiana Masking Indians are revelers in New Orleans, Louisiana, who dress up for Mardi Gras in suits influenced by Native American ceremonial apparel.
Collectively, their organizations are called “tribes”. There are about 38 tribes. They range in size from half a dozen to several dozen members. The groups are largely independent, but a pair of umbrella organizations loosely coordinate the Uptown Indians and the Downtown Indians.
In addition to Mardi Gras Day, many of the tribes also parade on Saint Joseph’s Day (March 19) and the Sunday nearest to Saint Joseph’s Day (“Super Sunday”). Traditionally, these were formerly the only times Mardi Gras Indians were seen in public in full regalia. The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival began the practice of hiring tribes to appear at the Festival as well. In recent years it has become more common to see Mardi Gras Indians at other festivals and parades in the city.
Notwithstanding the popularity of such activities for tourists and residents alike, the fact remains that the phenomenon of the Mardi Gras Indians reflects both a vital musical history, and an equally vital attempt to express internal social dynamics.