By Glenn Jones
2000 – 2018 – Big Chief Thomas “Bo” Dean
1997-2000 – Big Chief Ferdinand “Pops” Bigard
Chiefs Last Stand
As we strolled the hallowed road approaching the 2400 block of North Villere Chief Bo articulated the historical value that this area has for his family and this inimitable culture. Growing up in the 8th Ward that is sandwiched between the huge 7th and 9th Wards, Chief Bo spoke of his roots and family lineage in the 8th Ward that stretches into the 7th and 9th Ward.
Big Chief Bo’s deep family roots in the Black Masking Culture (Mardi Gras Indians) doesn’t originate with Young Cheyenne, but in the Seminoles with his great-uncle Second Chief Sylverian Bigard brother of the legendary Ferdinand Bigard. Chief learned to design and the history of this culture from his grandfather Ferdinand Bigard who designed many of the suits of the legendary Flag Boy of the White Eagle Tribe, then Big Chief Joe (Joseph Adams) Pete. Chief refers to Big Chief Joe Pete as Uncle Pete and credits him as his mentor in Black Masking Culture. Saying “All the way through my teenage years I was under an apprenticeship under Joe Pete. That’s where I learned how to construct a costume properly, how to decorate a costume and how to be the best dressed. Big Chief Joe Pete was never second best he was always the best dressed.”
When Chief Bo came back from the Air Force in 1991 he became Flag Boy for four years for Chief Joe Pete of the Seminoles. Six years later after Big Chief Joe Pete passed away and the reigns of the Chief had passed down twice more to the present day Big Chief Kietho. Masking then as Flag Boy “Bo” got the tap on the shoulders from his late Grandfather Ferdinand saying, “it’s time for you to step up”. Big Chief Regal Black handed the Cheyenne Tribe down to Big Chief Ferdinand Bigard who was now calling his Grandson Bo to take over the Cheyenne Tribe. Chief Bo renamed them the Young Cheyenne for two reasons: one, to keep down confusion with similarly named tribes, and two because at the time he was the youngest Chief on the streets at the age of 23. Serendipitously, the same momentous year Chief Bo had twins Thomas IV and Tony, who are currently Spy Boys for the Red Cheyenne Tribe. In 2000, Ferdinand “Pops” Bigard ceremoniously came back as Council Chief to mask one last time and walk the streets with his Grandson Bo, commemorating his first year as Big Chief.
Cheyenne Reunion – 4 Generation Indian Heritage – Tricentennial NOLA
The Young Cheyenne Tribe’s name has been in limbo for the last 5 years. Chief sons have been masking with the Red Cheyenne which came out of the Young Cheyenne under Big Chief John “Twin” Ohillia (cousin to Chief Bo). Chief Bo is encouraged by his sons wanting to bring their father out and mask with him since they were 5 years old the last time. That reality, coupled with Chiefs feeling about the Tribe name being in limbo, he decided to come back for what he calls, “My last stand”. This will be no small stand! Combining the Red Cheyenne and erecting the Young Cheyenne with past members, collectively they will be 10 – 20 Indians deep, all color coordinated by their bloodline family.
Q) What role does your historical lineage play in present-day Black Masking?
A) I come from generations of Mardi Gras Indians like my grandfather, my grandfather’s brother, and my Uncle Joe P. The difference with me is, the generations of Mardi Gras Indians in my tribe, they weren’t average, they were all the top echelon of the culture as it applies to costuming, taking it seriously, and being true to the game. Literally, everything that I do is focused and dedicated to the elders and what they’ve trained me to be. The level of costuming that I bring on the street is because I refuse to be the one to damage the family legacy.
Q) This 300-Year Anniversary of the City, what is special about this Mardi Gras?
A) The Cheyenne Reunion. For me just to have my sons with the interest of being a part of this culture is overwhelming for me. This year the real reason I’ve decided to do the Cheyenne Reunion is the fact that I want everyone to see the embedded culture in the family lineage. My sons are masking with my nephew who is their Chief of the Red Cheyenne. So, this year when we hit the street we’re going to have four generations represented in our tribe. This year I’m going to be the Big Chief Elder because I am the Elder Chief in the family and this is my last stand.
Q) How do the specific type feathers on a suit affect the time a tribe comes out?
A) If you come outside before daytime with eagle feathers you have no risk of damaging the feathers because of their stiffness. When you have Ostrich Plumes on because of the morning dew and moisture in the air before the sun rises the feathers will clench up because they have long hairs and can’t be exposed to moisture like that. Whereas an eagle feather is stiff with firm quills.