Get ready to get wild. Next week brings the 17th Annual Mardi Gras Indian Hall of Fame Week (August 3rd-9th), an event-packed celebration of the achievements of the Black Indian Nation, and this year’s “Year of the Wild Man.”
The Mardi Gras Indian Hall of Fame (MGHIF) was co-founded in 1988 by Dr. Roslyn Smith and Cherice Harrison-Nelson (Big Queen of the Guardians of the Flame and daughter of late Big Chief Donald Harrison, Sr.) to perpetuate and honor Mardi Gras Indian culture, a community at the very essence of New Orleans’ history and heritage.
Each August, the MGIHF organizes a week during which all of the tribes gather to honor their traditions, their ancestors, and the individuals who have demonstrated great leadership over the course of the previous year.
Additionally, the Hall of Fame week includes panel discussions, exhibitions, dinner receptions, and other events that are free and open to the public. (For a complete schedule of this year’s events, see below.)
In 2005, Queen Cherice established the Crystal Feather Awards, which have since become an essential component of the celebration. This formal ceremony recognizes Mardi Gras Indians excelling in specific realms of cultural preservation, as well as people who aren’t Mardi Gras Indians but have helped the community through their journalism, photography, historic preservation, and academia. OffBeat was awarded the Scribe Award by the Mardi Gras Indian Hall of Fame several years ago.
The categories this year are as follows:
- Donald Harrison, Sr. Elder Statesman Award
- Donald Harrison, Sr. Posthumous Crystal Feather Award (ancestor)
- Elder Stateswoman Award
- Big Chief Donald Harrison, Sr. Cultural Preservationist Award (institution)
- Big Chief Donald Harrison, Sr. Guardian of the Flame Award
- Community Supporter Award (institution)
- Donald Harrison, Sr. Capturing the Spirit Award (institution)
- Scribe Award (media/journalist)
- Capturing the Flash Photographer Award (best practices)
- Big Chief Donald Harrison, Sr. Drumbeat Award
- Posthumous Music Heritage Award (ancestor)
- 2015 Year of the Wild Man Award
Since 2010, the events have kicked off with a special Blue Linen Monday opening night. It serves as the official photography exhibit of Hall of Fame Week and in particular, it addresses the controversial issue of photographers and parade-goers selling photos of Indians without consent. The event brings together notable Indians and notable photographers and provides a space to discuss how sale and distribution of photos could be improved upon and made more fair for all involved.
Founded in 2013, another popular component of the MGIHF is the Yearbook Series. This annual publication presents photos and profiles on some of the city’s most active Indians. Each year, the Yearbook highlights a specific tribe masking position: 2013 featured the Spy Boy and 2014 featured the Flag Boy. This year, it will honor the Wild Man with over 40 interviews with “Wild Persons” across tribes.
To be released in October 2015, the 2015 MGIHF Yearbook will also include various unique tribe members such as Moss Man, Medicine Man, Medicine Woman, Wild Queen, Voodoo Chief, Voodoo Queen, War Chief and others. Big Queen and Big Chief editions will be released in subsequent years.
2015 MARDI GRAS INDIAN HALL OF FAME WEEK
Schedule of Public Events (from MGIHF Press Release)
Monday, August 3: Blue Linen Monday & 2015 Photography Exhibit Opening Night Reception
- 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. at the Arts Council of New Orleans Gallery (935 Gravier Street)
- Free and open to the public
- Donations welcome, framed prints for sale (On view through August 7)
Saturday, August 8: 2015 Crystal Feather Honors Dinner Reception
- 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. at Basin Street Station (501 Basin Street)
- $35 per person (includes full dinner, beer, wine, soft drinks)
- Purchase tickets at the door or online
- Semi-formal attire
Sunday, August 9: 2015 Mardi Gras Indian Hall of Fame Awards & Closing Ceremony (panel, talk, awards, ceremony, performances, meet & greet)
- 1 p.m. – 6 p.m. open house at Ashe Cultural Arts Center (1712 Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard)
- Free and open to the public
- Donations welcome, light refreshments served