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. www.mardigrasdigest.com/Sec_mgind/history.htm 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) AFRICAN AMERICAN CULTURAL CENTER (Black Indian Cultural Exploration) ILLINOIS PUBLIC MEDIA (PBS Partnering) GSLIS (Information Science) Youth Media Workshop (Student Development ) Urban Planning Organizational Cluster Model (Patterson, 2010) Bibliography 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, Louisiana.