THE ICON: Becate Batiste
THE LEGACY: When it comes to the history of New Orleans’ Mardi Gras Indian gangs, there’s much that is shrouded in mystery. One thing that is not, however, is the role of Becate Batiste, a 7th Ward plasterer who is recognized as the leader of the city’s first Mardi Gras Indian gang, the Creole Wild West. He might not have known it at the time, but when he stepped out of his house at 1313 St. Anthony St. on that seminal Mardi Gras in the 1880s, Batiste was helping give birth to one of the city’s most colorful and unique traditions, one that continues — and thrives — to this day.
THE ARTIST: D. Lammie Hanson
THE INSPIRATION: “Even at the parades with floats and costumes that cost millions, why, if the folks heard the sign of the Indians — Ungai-ha! Ungai-ha! — that big parade wouldn’t have anybody there. The crowd would flock to see the Indians.” — Jazz pioneer (and one time Mardi Gras Indian spy boy) Jelly Roll Morton, in 1938