Dancin` in the Moonlight

Dancin’ in the Moonlight:
the indigenous ballad of the
Mardi Gras Indians
Presented By: William M. Patterson, Ph.D.
Associate Director, Bruce D. Nesbitt African American Cultural Center
Who are they?
The Mardi Gras or
“Mask” Indians are a
rich part of New
Orleans heritage that
dates back to the
1700’s (Smith, 1994).
Who are they cont…
In 1699, Pierre Le Moyne', declares his camp
"Pointe du Mardi Gras", (Mardi Gras Point), as
Louisiana's first European settler's entered the
Mississippi Delta Gulf Coast Region.
Approximately, twelve years later in 1711, Native
Indians were taken as slaves by the French (Clark,
1999). However, this would not last long.
Who are they cont…
Around 1719, the governor of the Louisiana Territory,
called for shipments of enslaved West Indians, Africans,
and Haitians to be sent to New Orleans to offset the
impact of mass escapes of the Native Americans from
slavery. Over the next several years, the French focused
on their new labours and during this time, it was
suggested that things were pretty quite until around
1725. It was during this period that the Native
Americans begin helping the enslaved people escape
(Clarke, 1999).
Who are they cont…
Tchoutchuoma, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Blackfoot were some of the
tribes that were recognized as allies to help free and shelter the
enslaved. Throughout the 1800’s there was unrest in New Orleans
particularly during Mardi Gras, a time when various black gangs used
masking to battle rivals, Creole’s, and free men of color. They also
used that time to mix and mingle with the city’s ruling or “upper
class.” However, it was the latter that more so caused the
enactment of laws that prohibited blacks from masking for Mardi
Gras with the mainstream. Ultimately Jim Crow laws reinforced the
segregation that forced blacks to structure their own Mardi Gras
parade and celebratory events in the back streets of New Orleans
(Smith, 1999).
Tribal Territories
www.mardigrasdigest.com/Sec_mgind/history.htm (Clark, 1999)
Spy Boy
flickr.com/photos/ porchewest/3311398680/
Wild Man
flickr.com/photos/ anthonyturducken/2343311272/
Big Chief
www.nowpublic.com/culture/ more-new-orleans-ma..
Why this is important in 2010
As higher education is challenged and held accountable to
become more civic minded in creating greater societies.
Cultural history is key. The Mardi Gras Indians represents
over two hundred years of segregated traditions that have
the potential of being washed away due to the aftermath of
the levee’s breaking after Hurricane Katrina.
Generations of young people from what is being recognized
as the Hip Hop generations are growing up in America with
no historical reference of how to find their place and space in
the world. Much of that knowledge is usually passed down
through family, community, and social serving organizations.
As scholars, it is our charge to support the development of
Illinois students to be “civic minded global leaders”
(Patterson, 2010)
What Is Our Role
New Orleans represents another
opportunity for Illinois to provide
valuable resources that can support the
redevelopment of one America’s oldest
and greatest cities. It also provides
ample opportunity for Illinois to learn
from the indigenous residents
knowledge of the needs to build greater
societies. Chartered is an example of an
organizational cluster model of an
Illinois approach to support the rebuild
efforts (Patterson, 2010)
(Black Indian Cultural
(PBS Partnering)
(Information Science)
Youth Media Workshop
(Student Development )
Urban Planning
Organizational Cluster Model (Patterson, 2010)
Clark, Jr, W. (1999) A brief history of the Mardi Gras Indians of New
Orleans, (www.mardigrasdigest.com/Sec_mgind/history.htm.)
Patterson, W. (2010) Dancin in the Moonlight: the indigenous ballad
of the Mardi Gras Indians.
Smith, M. (1994) Mardi Gras Indians. Pelican Publishing Company,

similar documents