Written by Andrea Boll
Monday, 26 March 2007 11:36
NOLAFugees Correspondent Andrea Boll gets a lesson about the Mardi Gras Indians that some local media outlets have yet to learn.
“There are so many more Indians this Super Sunday,” I comment to Geraldine, a friend I know from the Second Lines, as we watch another Indian, this one in dark blue and bright pink, chant by.
“This is Indian Sunday,” she says, reprimanding me. “Not Super Sunday.”
This is news to me. Not that I’m any sort of expert on Mardi Gras Indians, but I would think that after seven years, somebody would have corrected me since I have always called the Sunday the Indians come out Super Sunday, whether it was Uptown, Downtown or across the river
“What’s the difference?” I ask.
She explains that Indian Sunday is Uptown and put on by the Indian Council. Super Sunday is Downtown and put on by Tambourine and Fan. “Everybody screws it up,” she says. “Even the Gambit.”
Later, I call Sylvester Francis, curator of the Backstreet Cultural Museum for more information. I had just called him the day before to make sure the Indians would be Uptown because a friend of mine wanted to have a get together at her house by Bayou St. John and then go see the Indians she thought would be there (per info of the Gambit). I didn’t want her to be disappointed when there were none. I was sure I had used the words “Super Sunday.” He had said nothing about it being called Indian Sunday.
“We call them all Super Sunday,” he says, “but they not.”
He then confirms what Geraldine had told me. Uptown is really called Indian Sunday and Downtown, the one that begins by the Bayou, is technically Super Sunday.
“What about Westbank?” I ask.
“That’s put on by the Mohawk Hunters,” he says, “but they still call it Super Sunday.”
He then explains the evolution of Super Sunday, how in 1970, the first year of Super Sunday, the Indians started Uptown and ended Downtown, organized by what would eventually become Tambourine and Fan. The second year, the Indians started Downtown, went Uptown, and then went back Downtown. The third year, they started by Bayou St. John and that’s where it stayed. It wasn’t until 1986 that the Indian Council started Indian Sunday Uptown.
“Why did Super Sunday even start?” I ask. “Or should I say how?
His explanation is twofold: Indians wanted a day to come out because at night, nobody could see them, and also because “St. Joseph’s don’t mean nothing to blacks, so we [wanted] to have our own day.” St. Joseph’s Day is a celebration observed by New Orleans’ Italian Americans in which beautifully arranged altars of fruit, breads, and desserts are offered in thanks to Saint Joseph. Other than Mardi Gras and the Super Sundays, it is the only other time Indians mask. The link between it and Mardi Gras Indians, however, is seemingly unknown. Although, I have heard it is because St. Joseph’s is the day Lent can be “broken,” a statement which cannot be confirmed. It is one of those ideas which many people know but cannot state how or when they learned of it.
“That’s why,” Sylvester continues, “it’s always the Sunday before or Sunday after St. Joseph’s.”
“Super Sunday or Indian Sunday?” I ask.
“Didn’t I just explain this to you?” he answers.
“Yeah, you did,” I say and drop it.
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