Big Chief Darryl Montana spent his final Mardi Gras Day leading the Yellow Pocahontas, according to an essay posted on Huffington Post Contributor, an open publishing platform of the news website. Montana named his successor, Shaka Zulu, earlier this year, telling writers Ben Arnon and Erika Alexander that it meant breaking with a generations-old tradition of passing that rite onto a family-member.
The essay, posted June 1, follows Montana through what he says is his final season as leader of the Yellow Pocahontas. In it, Montana and its authors use the term Black Masking Indians instead of Mardi Gras Indians, a choice made by many practicing the unique New Orleans tradition of wearing handmade, intricately beaded suits and participating in a form of public theater on the city's streets at certain times of the year.
For Montana, this heritage is specifically tied into not only his family's history, but also the strength of the community in which he was raised. Montana's father, Allison "Tootie" Montana, was an iconic member of this community.
"The tribes' stability and annual presence strengthens and comforts a vanishing community of color in the Crescent City. Treme is a historic community torn apart by floods, government negligence and rapid gentrification," write the essay authors. "In this fight to stay vital, the tribes continue to thrive, by supporting one another, guarding their tribal secrets, and creating an alluring African brotherhood and mystery. But the essential elements for their continued success and survival are crystal clear: honor, character, tradition, and loyalty to family."