Faces in the Crowd: The Indians
African Americans in New Orleans have masked as Indians for well over a century, however the tradition still remains a mystery for many. Most believe the tradition started as an expression of respect for Native Americans who helped African Americans escape the tyranny of slavery. Mardi Gras day and St. Joseph's night are the traditional sacred days for the Indians who spend an entire year hand-sewing the intricate and beautiful suits they wear during these celebrations. These suits often tell a story - the story in the year of the life of the man, woman or child who wears the suit. Thus, it is a very solemn and spiritual experience for those who participate. Today, these neighborhood based groups appear in the streets during Carnival season, chanting, dancing and competing in a ritual "battle" to claim the right to be called the "prettiest." This extraordinary tradition is generational and is one of the few remaining examples of indigenous masking that continues throughout the world.