Big Chief Tootie Montana
Tribes are led by a Big Chief, known for his sewing and singing ability, and have other members as well: a Spy Boy to look out for other tribes; a Wild Man to clear a path; and a Flag Boy to carry the flag. Click here to learn more about the different roles within a tribe.
Allison "Tootie" Montana was perhaps the most influential and important Mardi Gras Indian of all time. Tootle masked for more than fifty years, longer than any other Indian, and was legendary for the beauty and detail in his suits. He is also credited with helping to change the culture of the Mardi Gras Indians to a more peaceful one. Montana was Big Chief of the Yellow Pocohontas for more than 40 years.
Big Chief Robert Lee
Robert Lee, known as Chief Robbe, is the only “chief of chiefs” ever named by the Council. A longshoreman, Chief Robbe was born in 1915. By age 10, he was learning to sew from the legendary Brother Tillman, and by 1929 he was the Spy Boy for the Creole Wild West. He eventually became chief of four different tribes, including the Golden Blades, the White Eagles, and the Ninth Ward Hunters. He retired from masking in 1962 but remained an influential leader. He died on Jan. 19, 2001, and was buried at Lafayette Cemetery No. 2.
Big Chief Larry Bannock
Big Chief Larry Bannock was the Chief of the Golden Star Warriors. Chief Larry was a welder by trade, and worked on many works around the city, including the Louisiana Superdome in the mid-1970s. Chief Larry was more than a welder though - he was a leader of men and young men as chief of the Golden Star Warriors. Chief Larry was well respected in his community, and in the Mardi Gras Indian culture from Indians of his tribe, and of other tribes. His suits were known for their beauty, and his intricate suits were well known in the area. His suits are considered folk art, and are featured in high-end venues, as well as in museums as prestigious as the Smithsonian Institution and the St. Louis Museum of Art.
Chief Larry Bannock began his career as an Indian masking for the Golden Star Warriors in the 1950s as a Spy Boy. He was always a serious Indian, rising throughout the ranks and becoming Chief in 1979. Since then, he has helped to guide boys into young men, and young men into men. He has been a role model for his tribe, for his culture and for his community during five different decades. Chief Larry recently passed away on April 30, 2014.
Big Chief Larry was a leader of men, and a Mardi Gras Indian legend.
Chief Tyrone Casby, Mohawk Hunters (Algiers) .“For me, it is almost like a spiritual movement. After the drums start and you’re putting on the costume that morning, you just felt different. Some folks look forward to Christmas, I look forward to Mardi Gras morning. I can’t wait to put that suit on.”
Chief Thomas Landry, Geronimo Hunters. “There’s no rights and no wrongs to putting a suit together. It’s yours—you’re creating this. I’ve heard people say, this Indian was ugly or this Indian was raggedy. No—I respect him because that’s his suit. If he like it, I love it.”
Chief Larry Bannock, Golden Star Hunters (Gert Town): “The prettiest thing is Mardi Gras morning when you’ve got your queens, and everybody’s dancing.”
Chief David Montana, Washitaw Nation. “I chose the white buffalo as my tribe to offer peace to all the Mardi Gras Indians and respect to my relatives. When people can realize to respect one another, what a beautiful thing it is.”
Chief Howard Miller, Creole Wild West: “On Mardi Gras Day, if you’ve done your work, you’ll be transformed into what you’re supposed to be that day. And that’s a powerful feeling, a powerful spiritual feeling.”
Chief Victor Harris, Fi Yi Yi (7th Ward): “It’s all about the suit because the suit is the spirit. It’s not a game, it’s not about publicity—it’s about the spirit and the culture.”