2004 – Present Big Chief Otto “Fiyo” DeJean
When I met Chief Fiyo his profile and mannerisms reminded me of a prize fighter. My father is a fight fan so I’ve seen a lot of boxers and their profiles. His body stocky, like Tyson, his voice smooth like Smokey Joe Frazier and his image and swag, Ali. Just like those legends, so too were his teachers in the Black Masking culture.
Two of them were his uncles, Second Chief of the red white and blue, Joseph Allen and Merlin DeJean of the Flaming Arrows. The third teacher was Walter Cook, Former Big Chief of Creole Wild West. “My uncle Joe sat down with me and taught me how to put the beads down, that’s his thing. My uncle Merlin, was the dancer and trash talker. We’d get together in my grandmother’s kitchen and go back and forth. The first person to stutter, choke or take too long to deliver a message that rhymed, it was over for you. It was like training to face Ali or for an interview with Howard Cosell. Lil’ Walter is the best builder I’ve ever been around. In my opinion, he’s the best builder. So, the lessons I got from Lil Walter were how put the suit together. How to build an apron, how to decorate it. How to put the foundation and crown together; put the feathers on and make the crown stand at 12 o’clock, which is straight up on your head. The combination was ridiculous!”
It is apropos that we reference prize fighters, as Big Chief’s early attempts to find a 7th Ward tribe to mask with was met with great resistance. To the extent that his first tribe was an Uptown gang. The fight was real. The Golden Blades Tribe under Big Chief Derrick Hulin gave him his first shot to get in the ring. He would mask “Wild Man”, and “War Chief” for two years. Then, as Chief says “I’m a 7th Ward baby”, he was ready to come home and bring his own tribe. Fighting to get permission from the Indian Council was just round one. Bringing a tribe in the traditional and culturally rich 7th Ward with Uptown-style patches, while not coming out of a downtown tribe was like, let’s just say, like the 17th round of the 15-round prize-fight between Tyson and Holyfield, bloody ear and all. Going on 14 years later, with one of the largest tribes in the 7th Ward and giving blessings for two of his Indians to start other tribes which have grown to great prominence in their respective wards, the victory is obvious.
Like all young bull champions rest is not their goal and love for their craft and culture is everything. Chief Fiyo’s next fight and maybe greatest opponent, was the thing he loved and the very mentors and traditions he cherished.
In April 2006, Chief decided it was time for him to try to unify his generation. The culture bearers at the time, fell under the Mardi Gras Indian Chief Council. Chief Fiyo called a meeting to rally the youth of the culture. The response to that call was overwhelming. More than the youth showed up. Elders and some chiefs drove in. Out of that meeting came the Circle of Chiefs and a directive to the newly elected president to bring consistency to the Downtown Super Sunday. Guess who head was on the chopping block as president? Guess who was elected to unravel Pandora’s box? Yep, Big Chief Fiyo. If only he had that overwhelming response to the meeting, carry over too support in the Super Sunday fight ring. No, he didn’t. But, as all eventual champions or chiefs will tell you with the right training, Spirit (the Most High) and an “Invictus” manifesto you will be victorious. Now, Downtown Super Sunday is the largest Black Masking event amongst the West Fest, St. Joseph Day and Uptown Super Sunday events respectively. Regardless of sabotage, rumors and rumors of war, Chief Fiyo maintained. The fruits of his labor are a result of his love, respect and passion for his fellow chiefs and Indians in this culture.
By Glenn Jones