The extremely colourful Mardi Gras Indians have been parading in New Orleans at least since the mid-19th century, possibly before. The history of the Mardi Gras Indians is shrouded in mystery and folklore.
Few in the ghetto felt they could ever participate in the typical New Orleans parade and historically, slavery and racism were at the root of this cultural separation. The black neighborhoods in New Orleans gradually developed their own style of celebrating Mardi Gras.
The Mardi Gras Indians named themselves after native Indians to pay them respect for their assistance in escaping the tyranny of slavery. It was often local Indians who accepted slaves into their society when they made a break for freedom.