Mardi Gras Indian Hall of Fame: Feathers in Their Caps

The Mardi Gras Indian Hall of Fame Crystal Feather Awards Ceremony honors Mardi Gras Indians and community members alike are honored for their dedication to preserving the traditions and culture of the Mardi Gras Indians. One of the top honors is The Chiefs’ Choice, which this year is Big Chief Romeo Bougere, son of “the late, legendary Big Chief Rudy Bougere, Sr. of the Ninth Ward Hunters,” according to organizer Queen Cherice Harrison-Nelson. “Rudy was known for spectacular bead work, he was a master stoner,” she says. “When I tell you he was a master, he was a master. He could do stonework for 10 people and each pattern would be different.” Romeo Bougere began masking at a very young age with his father as a mentor.

The Queens’ Choice is Queen Mercy Stevenson of the Wild Tchoupitoulas. The Chiefs’ Choice and Queens’ Choice are elected by separate committees of Chiefs and Queens respectively, who have been honored by the Mardi Gras Indian Hall of Fame in the past.

Harrison-Nelson says that they elect the queens “based upon a number of attributes including participation in the larger community, that they work to enhance the image of the Mardi Gras Indian tradition, and that they uphold the protocols of the traditions. They can serve as role models for younger queens as well as for all of the citizens of our community.”

The Hall of Fame was established in 1998 in honor of Cherice’s father, Big Chief Donald Harrison, Sr., who created the Guardians of the Flame in 1988. According to Harrison-Nelson, Dr. Roslyn J. Smith, former principal of Haley Elementary School, believed “that establishing the Hall of Fame would be a way to honor his memory, and also provide students with an opportunity to learn about the tradition from those people who maintain the tradition.”

Other award recipients this year include OffBeat publisher Jan Ramsey, who will receive the Scribe Award, and Big Chief Clarence Dalcour, who’ll be honored with the Peace Chief Award. Dalcour is known for his ceremonial releases of doves around the city “to symbolize that the Mardi Gras Indian community is a peaceful community,” Harrison-Nelson says. “We want peace not only within our neighborhoods but within our city and within our world.”

The Mardi Gras Indian Hall of Fame Memorial, Induction, and Awards Ceremony takes place
Sunday, August 7 at Ashe Cultural Arts Center from 4-5:30 p.m.