Native American Catholics E-Newsletter
August 2017

Hello and welcome to the quarterly electronic newsletter for Native American Catholics in the United States. The purpose of the newsletter is communicate about various events, activities, and partnerships and programs that I am currently working on. 

Please feel free to submit an article by contacting me at the email address below.

2017 Tekakwitha Conference 

The 2017 Annual Tekakwitha Conference returns to Rapid City, South Dakota.  The 2017 Annual Tekakwitha Conference has just concluded the gathering of Native American Catholics in Rapid City, South Dakota. Every year hundreds of Native American Catholics join in a celebration of their cultures, and faith. It was a time to renew old friendships, learn more about what it means to be both Native American and Catholic and to share the vision of St. Kateri Tekakwitha vision of joining both faith and culture.

This year's gathering was especially appropriate in the shadows of the Black Hills of South Dakota, a place sacred to the Lakota. It was also an appropriate place to celebrated the life and ministry of Nicolas Blackelk, mystic and evangelizer for the faith. It was because of the wonderful work of the Organizing Committee that we had such a successful gathering.

We are already looking forward to next year's gathering will be in Tacoma, Washington.

Your Brother in Christ, 
Rev. Michael Carson
SAVE THE DATE - BICM February 15-17, 2018

Save the date for Building Intercultural Competence for Ministers (BICM) Training of Trainers workshop! This is a biannual offering to prepare presenters to conduct USCCB's Building Intercultural Competence for Ministers (BICM) seminar. 

The dates are February 15-17, 2018 , during the Mid-Atlantic Congress in Baltimore, MD. 

For more information, contact Yolanda Taylor-Burwell at

Mardi Gras Indians of New Orleans

The Wild Tchoupitoulas Mardi Gras (Black Masking) Indians of New Orleans

By: Dr. Ansel Augustine (Drummer)

The Wild Tchoupitoulas are one of the more famous tribes of Mardi Gras (Black Masking) Indian culture of New Orleans.  They were formed around 1970 in uptown New Orleans.  Mardi Gras Indian history can be traced back to the 1700s.  Many historians say the history of the Mardi Gras Indians go back to when African slaves would run and hide in the bayous around Louisiana.  It was there that the Native Americans would take in the escaped slave and thus this tradition came about.  

There are almost 40 different Mardi Gras Indian tribes.  All pay homage to the Native and African ancestors through the suits they sew all year.  The feathers and ornate headdresses pay homage to the Native Americans.  The bead work and songs/chants are African (I help sew the suits and drum for the tribe).  All can be traced back to songs and drumming that took place during the gathering of slaves, natives, and free people of color in Congo Square in New Orleans in the 1700s.

The term "Mardi Gras" Indians came about because the tribes would take to the streets on Mardi Gras Day to "meet" other tribes throughout the city to engage in various rituals.  There are no set routes. The Chief decides where the tribe will go.  Each Indian plays a specific role in the  tribe.

The most sacred times for Indians are Mardi Gras morning and St. Joseph Night.  These were the times when the Indians could mask without fear of harassment from police because other cultural groups were celebrating in the streets of New Orleans (although there were many times when the police and Indians did clash)  

Presently there are also 3 designated Sundays, known as Super Sundays (uptown, downtown, and Westbank) where the tribes gather and parade through those parts of town as well.  Many of the Indians that mask are connected to the Choctaw tribe of Louisiana and Florida.  Many fight today to gain recognition of their Native status.  The present BIG CHIEF of the tribe, Roderick Sylvas (Chief Bald Eagle), is fighting for the rights of all Natives in the area. 

The Wild Tchoupitoulas became famous due to their music.  The famous New Orleans groups, the Neville Brothers and the Meters, were affiliated with the tribe.  The Wild Tchoupitoulas even released a popular album in the 1970s.  Although the tribes have become part of New Orleans tourism culture and can be found at various New Orleans themed events, one must remember that this is not entertainment, but a sacred culture that is indigenous to this country. 

Please view the following links to see the Wild Tchoupitoulas in action:

Native American Affairs
Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church
3211 Fourth Street, NE, Washington, DC 20017

   Phone: 202-541-3427 | Email: | Website