Present – 2002 Washitaw Nation (MGI)
2002 – 1956 Yellow Pocahontas
David Peters Montana comes from the storied Montana Black Masking Bloodline of New Orleans. The first tribe of the 7th Ward ran by the Montana Brothers Tootie and Edward, the Second Chief of the Yellow Pocahontas Tribe. Together they entrenched the culture of Black Masking downtown and set the tone for being pretty across the City. Sitting down with Chief is a roller coaster that goes up to the history of his family in the congressional library down to his earliest memories in the Lafitte Project as a child watching Indians threw the venetian blinds down the court yards to Orleans and Claiborne. As he watched Famed of old days Performer “Google Eyes” recite his opening act for the Municipal Auditorium. Then, through a loop, beating the drum of the tambourine giving you the soundtrack and illustration of his life story and culture.
Chief says he masked a few times as a child but fell in love with girls and lost his focused. Even though he wasn’t sewing he continued his passion for drawing combined with his knowledge as a retired master jeweler from Boudreaux’s in 94 when his father passed to continue the legacy.
Q) Chief why do you say the spy boy is the heart of the tribe?
A) Spy boys was great; spy boy is the heart of the tribe. With him up front he got to be a powerful individual. He sees everything going and coming, he’s gotta be a person that got some strength, because back in the day, they used to fight. A lot of people didn’t follow the Indians, they watched threw the venetian blinds of the City. We run behind them after they go up the street, not knowing one day you would be part of that. Ya know but it was just that deep in our roots, till I had to go that way.
Q) What style of suit do you sew?
A) I did a suit with no stones, they got expensive. Now I’m beading. Know what they use to say? Dudes downtown don’t know how to bead. Shewd don’t talk to fast. I make you eat your words. I make ya put ya phone down! There is an old word, a creole word Rumbaasha. It means raggedy…. You will hear a Indian sing no Rumbaasha hear, nah! I like my suit to fit me. I don’t like mine too big. I like to get around and come around. Look wild at them. My crown do it all. It bounce right when I move. When it’s made right it becomes you.
Q) Chief why did you start the Washitaw Nation Mardi Gras Indians?
A) Washitaw Nation why Washitaw true native people from many many years ago. The people of the mounds. The mounds that led from Canada down the Mississippi to Monroe LA. These were the indigenous people. They were some of the people that helped the people in slavery. Well they say I out grew my position (with Yellow Pocahontas Tribe), so I pulled my own gang. I’m Big Chief Washitaw Nation, won’t bow down, don’t know how, I make a caterpillar crawl, slip through wall and when I get him to the top I dare him to fall! In 94 my daddy past December 31, 1994 while he was working on the Sunburst Suit. Which was the ending of him and the beginning of me. I had three months to finish his suit. When I put it on, a feeling came over me and I just started getting ideas for suits. It’s funny how things will come over you. That was in 95 and I haven’t put the needle down yet.
Q) Can this culture pull our kids back from technology?
A) Kids are interested, because it’s something new to some kids. They want to know what’s it’s all about. So, I find the children, I got a little nephew he’s only 5 or 6 years old now and he started at 3 and he really wanted to do it. He knows how to dance, and he know how to perform with it. He’s learning it other kids watch him. They got a couple of little girls (My grand baby) she dances and sing the songs. Kids are interested they like sponges they soak up everything. And if its somethings that’s pretty colorful. It’s got song it’s got dance. It puts them all up in the front (in the spotlight).
Q) Why, was this culture almost lost from 1700’s till the first reports of your family masking in the 1850’s?
A) They were banded to wear feathers. You couldn’t wear feathers if you got caught with them on then. They was supposed been have gotten rid of all the Indians. They pushed them in the reservations. If you was an Indian they (you) didn’t say nothing. People didn’t say nothing because they didn’t want them to know. They didn’t know what nationality a lot of us was, if you didn’t tell them. They call use Colors, Negros, Blacks, Maroons. They called us all kind of different names. But at the same peek of it all they still didn’t respect the Redman. We the Red People, and they weren’t White and they show you Buffalo Bill and he brought White Indians. And where they came from. Just like Hollywood have White Indians. Everybody know who we are but us. But I be damn if I don’t know who my people are after looking at all that (congressional libraries) of my family history. I know exactly who I am. Maybe that’s why I have some of the ways that I have.