Big Chief Tyrone Casby on Mardi Gras Indians in 2012

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Published on: March 16th, 2012

Big Chief Tyrone Casby of the Mohawk Hunters, is the Principal of the Youth Study Center in the Alternative Learning Institute at Orleans Parish Prison.  He stopped by to talk about the state of Mardi Gras Indians in 2012, with unprecedented exposure via the HBO series "Treme" and a higher profile than ever before.

"The biggest aspect of this year's Mardi Gras Indian culture is the exposure, and the assistance it's receiving from the city and other venues.

For example, before this year we wouldn't have been at the Jazz Fest Cultural Exchange Pavilion.  Plus, the parades we've been having on St. Joseph's night were very peaceful, unlike in the past, because of the relationship between the Indian chiefs and the city administration, which trickles down to the township people.

The Pavilion really enhances the culture because it gives people the opportunity to observe the different styles and skills of Indians, sewing costumes and singing.  Regalia you can't see elsewhere, with an opportunity to examine it.  It used to just be Mardi Gras and St. Joseph, then Super Sunday, then West Fest, Indian Sunday, and Downtown Super Sunday. I don't think [the exposure] is going to change the culture, it will change the viewing audience who can get out to see it."

Every year we make a new costume and the viewing audience will see something different every year, and I have to make sure that what I'm putting out there is worthwhile seeing and not repetitious.

It won't change what we do. I'm still gonna accidentally stick my finger every night, I'm still gonna sew one bead at a time, I'm still gonna have that spiritual feeling that makes me want to be a Mardi Gras Indian.

The only thing that's changing is the costume, not the spirit."

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