Spy Boy Dow leads them out.

Indian funerals.

They are like nothing you’ve ever seen. If you get a chance to go, you should go. They are spiritual. They are magical. And, the are colorful.

Keep in mind this is a very sacred event. Respect what you see. Respect who you see. And, pay your respects to the person who has just passed.

As you know, for me, the work is the prayer. I pay my respects by making pictures and documenting the scene.

I know enough to not get close to an Indian meeting on the scene — the Indians who have circled to discuss their roles on the street — and who may or may not know each other.  And, I know enough not to get into anybody’s faces while I think I am doing my job.

This pictures barely scratch the surface of what happened on this day. A day of celebration of life for Big Chief Tom Sparks Jr.

A word about Big Chief Tom. He started walking in 1947. He was the oldest living Indian before he passed. He was 86 years old. One of the things you may not know about me is that I live by some old Chinese sayings. One of which is, “When somebody dies who is over 80 years old, you laugh.” That’s the literal translation. It really means that you should not mourn for too long. Instead, you should celebrate their life.

Rolling to heaven.

The pictures. Nothing new here. F8 and be there. The real technique is what I’ve learned from years on the street. Things like moving in front of people with a smile and a kind word. A building of trust so that the Indians don’t toss you out of the circle. I felt like I succeeded when one of the pallbearers handed me his phone, checked to see if I was still carrying it, giving me a thumbs up and finally taking it from my hand when his job was completed. Smartphones are worth everything on the street. He trusted me to hold it. He is the guy in the blue shirt carrying the casket a couple of pictures down. It’s a little thing. But, it’s a big deal.

In honor.
Walking under the interstate.

And, so it ends. One man going home on a spiritual level. One Baby Doll walking under the interstate on Claiborne going to her earthly home.


Leave a Comment

  1. Ray thank you so much for being there. This is far more than we’ve gotten from the movies and TV. Your narrative with the images really sets the tone of respect. Well done and obviously you should be trusted with all the work you do in making the Mardi Gras Indian come alive in ways others don’t. No pun intended here, just a statement of fact.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are very welcome. Our passings are a time for people who haven’t seen each other in a while to get together and visit. As I get to know people I can make pictures that some others might not. I though the cable show Treme (which is where I was when I took these pictures) did a fairly good job of portraying the Indian culture. They could help it because, aside from the actors, the hired real live indian to be in it.


      • No. After the storm I lived in New Mexico for a while. The local people who I know were not that happy with a big time production. They learned about the world of slim profit margins which meant almost no royalties for them.


      • It wasn’t about the time, although that was bad enough. Many people lost everything and upon return saw their houses stacked one on top of one another because of the broken levees and the force of the water. But, when they agreed to take part in Treme (the movie) they got serious burned by their lack of continued payment. They didn’t have anybody to negotiate royalties for them.

        Liked by 1 person

    • As I said to someone else — maybe Tim — I guess I have finally found a sort of voice to my writing which has always come in second to anything else.

      Isn’t one sadness and the other learning how to live without? I think. In the past couple of years, I’ve had a tremendous amount of loss. I mostly think that may be due to the time in my life which means I’m getting older. Much older. Ever more older. 🙂 For instance, we were talking about helo driving… in what war do you think I did that? My fellow combatants and I are now just passing smoke.


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