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Black Indians...a people, a culture

Published: 
Saturday, January 6, 2018
Anderson Patrick portraying the Black Indian for Carnival Photo by:Edison Boodoosingh

“Black Indian is not a Carnival character, Black Indian is the existence of a race, Black Indian is a people, Black Indian is my culture”.

So said Anderson Patrick as he sat down with the Sunday Guardian to discuss the Black Indian, as part of the newspaper’s new series focusing on the aspects of this country’s mas as we count down to Carnival 2018.

Patrick is the king or “Okenaga” of the band the “Warriors of Hurracan” that participates in the Carnival street parade. It is the only Black Indian band.

He has trophies and photographs to mark the Black Indian’s presence in the Carnival.

“Even when the mas ends we are still Black Indians,” Patrick said.

Patrick said the Black Indian race began when the African slaves that were brought to this country intermingled with the Amerindians that are living here.

Patrick said his grandmother was a Carib mixed with African.

“It was two breeds of people that mixed so you can consider us a dougla,” Patrick said at his Santa Cruz home.

Patrick said the statue of an Amerindian on the Santa Cruz Old Road, with the words “La Venezuela” inscribed around the pedestal, was testament of the Amerindian presence in the area.

When the Black Indians take to the streets for Carnival, Patrick said the fancy clothes that are worn are meant to be a mockery of the former slave masters.

“The clothes is meant as a mockery but without the clothes we are still the people who exist as the Black Indian,” Patrick said.

The Black Indian costume includes a pants and a top made from velvet and other material, a shield and lance, as well as a headpiece that includes horns and rope.

Corebaux feathers

Beads and feathers also feature prominently in the Black Indian’s costume.

And the feather of choice for the Black Indian is the corbeaux feather, which is considered a “sacred bird”, Patrick said.

“We believe that the highest flying bird is the corbeaux, and when the corbeaux eats the dead thing it goes quite up to the sun and burns out all the impurities and comes back down, so we feel that it has spiritual sense and energy too,” he said.

“The next thing about the corbeaux is that it has ranks also, whenever something is dead the king corbeaux comes and takes the best part, the eyes and so on and then everybody else can eat,” Patrick said.

Within the Black Indians there are ranks also.

The feather of choice for the Black Indian’s costume is plucked from the dead corbeaux.

Other feathers are also purchased.

“Long ago, we used to go in the La Basse (Beetham landfill) to get the corbeaux feathers and there was a place where the corbeaux used to go and die, and we would go and see all of the trees dried up and when you looked on the ground you would see the dead corbeaux because they used to nest there and live there,” he said.

“But they keep pushing back the landfill and the corbeaux have relocated themselves so now when we want to get feathers we go Maracas Beach as well as Icacos and pick up feathers as well as.”

Patrick said corbeaux feathers last as much as 30 years and are used to decorate the clothing.

And like the name suggests, the Black Indian’s costume comprises mainly black.

Last Carnival, the “Warriors of Hurracan”, wore black and red.

This year the band’s costume will be “black and mauve” to mourn the death of renowned Black Indian, Darlington “Boysie” Hen­ry who passed away in July.

Apart from the attire one of the things that the Black Indians also do as part of their masquerade is that they paint their faces black.

Patrick said this should not be considered racist but instead be viewed as part of celebrating the culture of the Black Indian people.

Anyone interested in playing with the Warriors of Hurracan can contact Patrick at 759-0812.

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