John Swenson/Offbeat Magazine
Monk Boudreaux was born to be a Mardi Gras Indian.
It is not a career, a craft or a profession, though one needs to go through an apprenticeship to become one.
It’s a blood and spirit celebration of the bond between African people brought to the New World as slaves and the indigenous people who were here when they arrived. The interchange was not just cultural. Monk, like many Mardi Gras Indians, is part of the undocumented creolization that occurred when the arrivals to the New World interacted with its indigenous people. Emancipated blacks, like many other Americans, were reluctant to admit a native heritage at a time when the United States was in open warfare with the Indian nations. You don’t want to go from the plantation to the reservation.
“Choctaw Indian, we Indians,” Monk explains. “Mardi Gras day we don’t just be doing this for masking. We be doing this for who we really are. It was a hidden thing. The older people hid this because they was hiding from the government because they didn’t want to be put on the reservation…”