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Tribal Counsel 

Like last year, the year before and the year before that, the Creole Wild West Mardi Gras Indians will take their suits and chants to the stage to show the world what the alleged oldest-continuously-in-operation Mardi Gras Indian tribe can do. Big Chief Walter Cook says, "We came from the 1800s with the Wild West show with Wild Bill Hickok. A lot of Mardi Gras Indians come out of the Creole Wild West. Tootie Montana came out of this tribe."

Cook started masking in 1963 with the Wild Magnolias. His father started the Wild Magnolias and then was the Big Chief of the Creole Wild West. Cook became Big Chief after a friend of his father's stopped masking and gave him the tribe. "You don't know until you put the suit on. It's spiritual. It's like a religion," he says.

Cook's suit this year departs from recent Indian tradition. There is less plumage and smaller patches, but more elements of hide and animal fur. "It's an original Native American Indian suit. I didn't want to do it with the rhinestones because I've done that. My people are Choctaw Indians. I wanted to challenge myself, so I started dealing with suede, cowhide, rabbit, deer. I wanted something different. I wanted to do something raw and original."

Onstage, Cook will bring as much of the tribe as he can. "We're going to put on a show. We've been doing it since it was in Congo Square by the [Municipal] Auditorium. I've got J. Monque'D with his blues band and Irvin Bannister on guitar. I'm also bringing my chief scout, wild man, flag boy, spy boy, first, second and third chiefs. And I've got five or six kids. I'll be singing the Indian songs, but I can't predict how it will come out. It's different every time."

click to enlarge Big Chief Walter Cook leads the Creole Wild West, one of the - oldest Mardi Gras Indian groups. - ROYCE OSBORN
  • Royce Osborn
  • Big Chief Walter Cook leads the Creole Wild West, one of the oldest Mardi Gras Indian groups.
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