TRIBAL TIMELINE: 1959 – 1971 Theodore “Merk” Goodman
1972 – 1977 Nolan peters
1978 – present Kevin Goodman
7th Ward Culture Barrier In 1960 Big Chief masked in a stroller as Lil’ Chief Flaming Arrows. Staples in his household growing up were Hall of Fame names (so to speak) such as Harold Featherson, Thomas Sparks and Big Chief Clarence “Ba Boy” Gaudete of the Cherokee Hunters. Later being one of the four Lil’ Chiefs that would-be cornerstones in preserving the culture of the present day Black Masking Culture. The four Lil’ Chiefs Were Clarence Gaudete Jr. of Cherokee Hunters, Lil’ Walter Cook of Creole Wild West (week 17) and the late Jerome Smith Jr. of the Yellow Pocahontas tribe. These young chiefs were immersed in the culture and its hierarchy from birth, and their tutelage were sacred stories of the origin of this culture and the people.
Big Chief is in the process of bringing out the 5th Generation of the Flaming Arrows. The Goodman Family has been instrumental in preserving this culture in diverse and much deeper ways. Big Chief’s two older brothers didn’t mask but were coordinators and designers on many suits. His older brother Theodore “Goody” Goodman started the first children’s tribe that many present-day Chiefs and tribes have come out of “The Young Flaming Arrows”. To be a part of the Young Flaming Arrows children had to have good grades and conduct to earn the right to mask. The children were the culmination of community pride and education without government grants or assistance from any principalities. This family tribe was in two wards at one time. Big Chief Merk’s uncle was Emile “Milly” Mercadel who brought a 9th Ward Flaming Arrows, (now known as Black Foot Hunters) out to the streets. As Chief says, “off our family tree we probably turned 5 or 6 Chiefs.” Many know of the uptown Indian sound from Bo Dollis Sr. and now Bo Dollis Jr. as well as the Neville Family, but for downtown Indians, Big Chief Kevin Goodman was the first recording artist in 1992. “Here come the Indians now” and latest CD is “live at the Jazzfest 2016”.
Q) What is the biggest difference between the pre-90’s and now?
A) In the 60’s their heart was more into it, than what it is now. We had more teachers. Everybody now are growing up and seeing the respect the Big Chief had. Everybody wanted to be Big Chief, it (the culture) got away from its origin. Spy Boy, didn’t want to run Spy Boy, Flag don’t want to run Flag Boy no more. It’s all in respecting your chief. It’s all in respecting the ones that were here before you. That’s with everything. We were taught that, in just growing up in life, period without the Indian suit. Because you are a man first. You are a man without the Indian suit and you are a man when you put the suit on, all though when you put them feathers on it’s a little different. You’ve got to have a little more heart.
Q) What would you say is missing from the culture now?
A) The borrowing (beads, feathers, etc..) was out of the love of the culture to see another Indian mask. So, you had more Wild Men, Spy Boys and Flag Boys because they would accept whatever you gave them to make their suit. Now they are putting on too much. You’ve got Spy Boys dressing like Big Chief and they can’t run, so they’re getting away from their position, they don’t even know their position. They don’t know “the confrontation” with another Indian. They don’t know when you meet (example), Ba Boy and Merk might have been friends 364 days but when they put them suits on Mardi Gras Day they are going at it, like the Saints and the Dallas Cowboys.
Q) Why do you Black Mask?
A) This was something I inherited from my father. That was his dream and his legacy. Growing up being a part of it, it grew on me and it became a part of me. I understood the reason why I was putting on that suit and the regalia. Why I masked for Mardi Gras is because I wanted to represent that Indian that helped my ancestors when they got free. St. Joseph’s Night is real spiritual. Tootle died trying to get his point across about what St. Joseph’s Night meant. How it was, when he masked in the 40’s and 50’s and how it was in the 90’s when the police tried to run the Indians off the street. St. Joseph’s Night is just as big as Mardi Gras when we mask.
Q) In the next three hundred years what do you want said about Big Chief Kevin Goodman of the Flaming Arrows.
A) Big Chief Merk started a tribe with his family and it was passed down from generation to generation and the Flaming Arrow name never got cut off. That is the one thing I wanted to do all through my life was keep the name going.