For more than a century, Mardi Gras Indians have been donning elaborately and lovingly sewn suits of feathers and beads to take to the city's streets in the early morning hours of Mardi Gras, where they rattle their tambourines, chant and challenge one another's tribes to see whose chief is the "prettiest."

The hand-sewn suits and colorful headdresses pay tribute to Native American and African aesthetics. Some suits can take up to a full year to make.

This African-American tradition is made up of gangs or tribes, such as The Guardians of the Flame, the Yellow Pocahontas, the Mohawk Hunters and the Creole Wild West. They walk out on Mardi Gras as well as on holidays, such as St. Joseph's night and Super Sunday in mid-March. They are led by a big chief, who is preceded on his route by his big queen, along with first, second, third chief, spy boy, flag boy or wild man.

Exactly when the Mardi Gras Indians will arrive and where they will meet can be difficult to determine, but meeting spots on Mardi Gras often include the corner of Second and Dryades streets in Uptown New Orleans, or Claiborne Avenue at Orleans under the I-10 overpass.

The meetings draw hundreds of spectators who wait to see the tribes meet and dance.

To see more Mardi Gras photos by | The Times-Picayune photographers, visit