42 Tribes Week 4: Big Chief Alfred Doucette

42 tribe series Chief Alfred Doucette- Flaming Arrows

Tribe Timeline:
Big Chief Jabby 1940’-1952
Big Chief Merch (Theodore Goodman) 1952- 1970
Big Chief Kevin Goodman 1970 – present

As Big (council) Chief Doucette, receives our film crew on this day as he is reflective over his neighborhood and community, and how things have changed. A chief such as this has seen a lot, done a lot. From starting his education as young man with his role models and teachers, his Grandfather, Father, Mother and older brother. “Back than everybody wanted to teach you something”. They wanted you to be better than they were. I’m a master carpenter, master body and finder man, built race cars and integrated the tracks in Mississippi back in the 60’s, me, Otis, Hank, David and Kingsely Roy, we went out there and raced all day and won the money and the trophy. Chief is a dreamer but one that manifest his dreams. As he says “I wanted a mansion cuase I used to work in them as a boy. I got one. I wanted race car, I got one,I wanted a benz, I got one, I wanted Indian suite I got one…them!

Q: Chief how did you get introduced to this culture?
(A): In 1952 my daddy had a carpenter business and henry worked for my dad. Jabby out the 9th ward would come and get Henry for Indian practice.  In Henry lived 2 blocks away on Rocheblave and he mask as a Wildman.  My brother Merch (Theodore Goodman) got interested through Jabby, and he started making Indian suit.  Then Boy-boy, from there Pacheon*(not sure how to spell pechoun)*, and all of a sudden a whole bunch of guys from out the neighborhood started masking and it seemed to spread throughout the city.

Q: Chief where do you get your inspiration for the themes of your suite?
(A): Strange-Fruit Suit came from a dream I had.  Some people from around the corner was getting ready for a second line.  I told them I had a dreamed about lynching and the man’s momma said Chief if you’re thinking about doing a suit about lynching then you need to hear Billy Holidays Strange Fruit.  From there I went straight to Maline’s house.  I download and it pulled up, and when I heard that song I knew what I had to sew. I sewed that suite Klu Klux Klan, Boy hanging from a tree, slave ships, slave auctions, I brought it to them, I put out on the streets, I put it on they mind! When they saw me come out, they bowed to one knee. My Prince of Peace suite as well. The biggest compliment you can get from an Indian in the streets is for them to bow to one knee.

Q: What style of beading or style of suits do you create?
(A): My suites are different much lighter than most! See them boys Shaka and them they crowns be 15ft high in the air. Mine are 9 feet. I asked Shaka how much that crown weighed he said “maybe 100lbs Chief. I said “weeeeee”! Tootie Montana was another one that did like that he was the plasterer and he made stuff for his Indian suits like he mold plaster, and he made iron hook ups to hang that stuff and put it on his shoulders and walked with it.

Q:What Impact does this culture have on the kids?

Dedication! (To make suits)

(A): Not just anybody can do this.  You will hear people say boy, Imma sew for next year, but that just be talk.  This is strictly dedication.  It’s just like a kid going to school to read and write.  This is strictly dedicate, and if you don’t dedicate yourself to something you not going to have nothing and see kids don’t know that what they see they hood with, and what they see is not right.  Kids got to recognize the right thing will get you to the right place, and the wrong thing will get you to the wrong place.  It’s as simple as that.  Our kids today are not getting educated at school or home.

Q:When was this culture at its purest?
(A):Claiborne street was our corridor, and they had all those Oak trees (before the Claiborne expressway) over there, we used to picnic, people from all over town. People used to come between esplanade and Orleans and swap food, ideas and network. It was a big ole family thing and the Indians and the revelers used to come through and that was our Mardi Gras. Our Mardi Gras was on Claiborne street (for the blacks) and they made cowboy costumes, baby doll costumes anything they could think of they made. But,the Indians were the main attraction!

By Glenn Jones

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