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Film Screening and Panel Discussion: The Black Indians of New Orleans

Sun, January 7th at 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM

Join us on Sunday, January 7, in NOMA’s Lapis Center for the Arts for a screening of The Black Indians of New Orleans, directed by Dr. Maurice Martinez.

A panel discussion with Big Chief Darryl Montana, Big Chief Tyrone “Pie” Stevenson, and artist Ron Bechet follows the documentary. 

This program is free and open to the public. When you arrive at the museum, check-in at the admissions desk.

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About the Film

The Black Indians of New Orleans (1976, dir. Maurice M. Martinez, 33 min.)

The Black Indians of New Orleans is the first internationally acclaimed film to explore the origins and rituals of the Black Masking Indians of New Orleans. The film documents the cultural history of the Black Masking Indians, their artful suit creation, music, call and response chants, dance movements, and gatherings for Sunday practices. The film includes sunrise-to-sunset coverage of the Black Indians in their suits on Mardi Gras in the 1970s. The film was produced by Dr. Maurice M. Martinez, a New Orleans–born poet, photographer, musician, filmmaker, and scholar steeped in African American culture through both his heritage and academic endeavors.

View Trailer

About the Panelists

Big Chief Tyrone “Pie” Stevenson

In 1972, Big Chief Tootie introduced the world to the newest member of his tribe, 12 year-old Spy Boy Tyrone “Pie” Stevenson. Stevenson was mentored by Melvin Reed and Jerome Smith, who started the influential Tambourine and Fan. He masked 23 years as Spy Boy and Gang Flag. In the ’90s, Stevenson decided to start his own tribe. To pay tribute to Yellow Pocahontas and his neighborhood, he requested the Monogram Hunter tribe from Big Chief Tootie and his brother Second Chief Edward Montana, and they gave him their father’s tribe name. 

On Mardi Gras Day 1992, Stevenson presented his first suit as Monogram Hunter Big Chief. Stevenson brought many friends and family into the tradition including his young son Jeremy. The tribe thrived in the ’90s under his leadership, but in the early 2000s Stevenson had to step away from actively masking to deal with the realities of the day. 

In 2014, Big Chief Pie returned to the needle and thread to inspire the next generation of Black Indians. Big Chief Pie and the tribe’s first Big Queen Denice Smith wore black in memory of everybody lost during and after Hurricane Katrina. They were joined by many of their original members over the following years.

Artist Ron Bechet

Ron Bechet is an abstract painter from New Orleans and a relative of the early jazz pioneer Sidney Bechet. He began drawing in the fourth grade, studied art at the University of New Orleans, and went on to earn a graduate degree from Yale University. He returned to New Orleans in 1982, and soon began a career in teaching art, first at Delgado Community College, then at Southern University in New Orleans, and since 1998, at Xavier University. For many years Bechet shared a studio with renowned sculptor, John Scott. Ron Bechet is currently the Victor H. Labat Endowed Professor of the Arts at Xavier University in New Orleans and is a member of NOMA’s Board of Trustees.

Big Chief Darryl Montana

Big Chief Darryl Montana celebrated his 50th year masking as a Black Masking Indian at Mardi Gras 2023. His Seventh Ward Creole family has masked for several generations, beginning in the late 1800s with his great-great uncle “Becate” Baptiste Eugene of the first known tribe, the Creole Wild West. Darryl’s father, Big Chief Allison “Tootie” Montana (1922–2005), was known as the “Chief of Chiefs” and remains a legend within the Black Masking Indian community. 

Darryl Montana’s intricate designs and superb beading work have earned him widespread recognition. He received the Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters and Sculptors Grant in 2012 and a United States Artist Fellowship in 2015. He has exhibited around the world, including at SITE Santa Fe’s Fourth International Biennial, Beau Monde: Toward a Redeemed Cosmopolitanism, and at Reg Vardy Gallery at the University of Sunderland in England. Recently, the Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac in Paris acquired Montana’s 2015 suit for its collection and featured it in the exhibition Black Indians de la Nouvelle-Orléans.

Montana passes along the tradition of Black Masking Indians and his artistry through various classes. He has taught children in workshops and summer programs through Xavier University of Louisiana’s Community Arts Program; and since 2019, he has conducted a series of older adult beading classes at the Louisiana State Museum. Darryl was recognized this year by the Louisiana Folklife Commission as a tradition bearer for carrying on the Black Masking Indian tradition for over 50 years.


Sun, January 7th
1:00 PM - 3:00 PM
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