Tuesday, July 13, 2010

What The Fuck Was Up With Those Treme Indians?

What The Fuck Was Up With Those Treme Indians?

So what the fuck was up with those Indian costumes on Treme? Oh wait, you don't watch the New Orleans based post hurricane Katrina show Treme. You know, the one by the creators of the Wire. One of which, David Mills, who died just a couple of weeks before the show aired. Well then, you're missing out.

But if you do know of the show, then you'll be wondering what exactly is up with the Indian feathery outfits that Clarke Peters' character Albert Lambreaux wears. And what's up with everyone calling him Chief? What the hell is the Guardians of the Flame?

Well, his character is a Mardi Gras Indian. Yes, they have them there too. Mardi Gras Indians are African-American Carnival 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". Many of the tribes also parade on the Sunday nearest to Saint Joseph's Day on March 19 ("Super Sunday") and sometimes at the annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

There are about 38 tribes. They range in size from a half dozen to several dozen members. The tribes are largely independent, but a pair of umbrella organizations loosely coordinate the Uptown Indians and the Downtown Indians.

Mardi Gras Indians have been parading in New Orleans at least since the mid-19th century, possibly before. The tradition was said to have originated from an affinity between Africans and Indians as minorities within the dominant culture, and blacks' circumventing some of the worst racial segregation laws by representing themselves as Indians. There is also the story that the tradition began as an African American tribute to American Indians who helped runaway slaves. These slaves married into the tribes on occasion. An appearance in town of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in the 1880s was said to have drawn considerable attention and increased the interest in masking as Indians for Mardi Gras.

When Caribbean communities started to spring up in New Orleans, their culture was incorporated into the suits, dances and music made by the "Indians".

In the late 19th century and early years of the 20th century, the tribes had a reputation for violent fights with each other. This part of Mardi Gras Indian history is immortalized in James Sugar Boy Crawford's "Jock O Mo" (better known and often covered as "Iko Iko"), based on their taunting chants.

As the 20th century progressed, physical confrontation gave way to assertions of status by having better suits, songs, and dances. Generations ago when Mardi Gras Indians came through neighborhoods, people used to run away; now people run toward them for the colorful spectacle.

A tradition of male-only tribes ended in the late 20th-century as women began appearing in costume as well. You're probably wondering why they only wear their suit for ONE NIGHT considering the amount of work they put into making them. But they'll wear the suits for Mardi Gras day, St. Joseph's Night, and Super Sunday when all the gangs parade and meet up. So 3 events and then the suit either goes into storage, or pieces get broken down and used again. Though most tribes don't do that at all.

You have to imagine it like the the hardest fucking street gang you can imagine made up of the most absolutely vain teenage girls in the universe. They are deadly serious about being pretty. And you can't wear the same suit on more than one year, because that is so totally embarrassing. They would just *die*. That is the point. The culture, the pride, and being the prettiest. The first two are equally important to each other, but you have to be the prettiest. Otherwise, what is the point? As long as the bitch across from you acknowledges how pretty you are, nobody has to start anything. She may be a little pretty, but everyone knows you are prettier than her.

And nobody has to get cut.

I really liked that they confronted, faced off, then showed mutual respect and moved on. A brawl breaking out would have been really bad. The "respect for respect" line was a good one.

my granma an yo granma
sittin by the fire
my granma said 2 yo granma
im gonna set ur flag on fire

And so began the tradition of trading away your dignity for a string of cheaply made Chinese beads.

This all just the tip of the ice burg with Treme, but if there's more that you're confused about, perhaps this link will help out some of those problems. And what about what happened with Creighton at the end of the season? John Goodman... more like John Deadman. Am I Rite?

Turns out his character was a late add-on to the story and my goodness, I'm going to miss that fat man.
Creighton was a good professor, and a good man. He was... He was one of us. He was a man who loved the outdoors, and New Orleans.
But yeah. there's some of those who believe that Steve Zahn's character represents the pretentious white people who watch Treme and John Goodman's character represents the what those people should do with themselves. That's just silly talk. And while the Indians and the Second Line aren't petite bourgeoisie, the rest of the story is pretty compelling and I can't wait for season 2 to start. Given that it's HBO, it'll be at least another 9 months.

So with that I say, if you haven't seen it - Wait for the DVD and press Play for that mother fucking money, yo.

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