2008 – Present – Big Chief Nelson “Mandela Jr.” Lewis

Chief Nelson started masking as a Wildman with no tribe. Chief first saw Black Masking Indians as a child on horseback from the Black Mohawks Tribe that used to come out of Shrewsbury, but now is out of Uptown. “I started carving masks and receiving spirits on how to draw”, along with the spirit of his mother’s sewing. Before the age of 12 he would watch his mom sew as he was honing his skills in mask carving. As Chief says, “she put that spirit in me, in my later years I started sewing”. It seems that the spirits have been guiding Chief Nelson since he was a child. These two accounts of spiritual connectedness are quite unique.

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2017 Hit the Streets
Big Chief grew up with his step father “Wild Man” Richard Ivory Turner of the 9th Ward Warriors, later with 9th Ward Hunters. In 2004 Big Chief and his stepfather with others went with Big Chief Nelson Burk to start the Red Hawk Tribe. Even though he grew up at the knee of Black Maskers (Mardi Gras Indians) he was a late bloomer. Chief started masking, as he said, once he made his own suit, at the age of 30.

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Tribe Timeline

2004 – Present Big Chief Otto “Fiyo” DeJean

The Training

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.

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By Glenn Jones

42 Tribes Recap

Beginning June, 2017,  Data News Weekly’s special feature, 42 Tribes has been shining the spotlight on the “Big Chiefs” of the 42 tribes that comprise the Black Indigenous Masking culture,  which is the heart and soul of Black New Orleans culture.  It is a supreme collective tradition and sacred heritage.  With the Tri-Centennial coming next year, Data News Weekly is highlighting all 42 of the Present Big Chiefs, and telling the stories that bring us closer to, and show proper reverence for this great and powerful history. Masking tradition is New Orleans, no Tri-Centennial celebration can be made here, without celebrating Indian culture.  Here is a quick look back at the 18 Chiefs we have profiled so far, and next week, we will bring you two new Chiefs on our way to 42 Tribes.   Visit www.  

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