At 5 a.m., The North Side Skull and Bone Gang leaves the Backstreet Cultural Museum and goes door to door, house to house, waking up the neighborhood and spreading a message of peace.
The tradition dates back to 1819. Its roots trace back to African spirituality, but the gang views its role in New Orleans as the “literal meaning of carnival, the shedding of flesh.”
Treme neighbors, and visitors who get up early enough to see them, might hear the Gang chant things like, “If you don’t live right, the Bone Man is commin’ for ya” as they beat drums and dance in the street.
Chief Al Morris resurrected the Gang in 2003 and recruited its current leader, Chief Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes who dons the iconic antler helmet. Sunpie is featured throughout the film, along with other members of the gang, which was directed by Victoria Rivera. A longer version of the film was shown at the New Orleans Film Festival and Tribeca Film Festival in 2017 to much acclaim. The city of New Orleans is proud celebrate its citizens who make up the backbone of our culture and traditions.
To see the North Side Skull & Bone Gang, visit the Backstreet Museum at 5 a.m. on Mardi Gras morning.