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The North Side Skull and Bones Gang
The North Side Skull and Bones Gang
The North Side Skull and Bones Gang
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The North Side Skull & Bone Gang

This 200-year-old tradition kicks off Mardi Gras Day in New Orleans

When we think of Mardi Gras, certain images come to mind.

The miles of ornate floats passing under oak trees on St. Charles Avenue. The decadence of Bourbon Street costuming and balconies. The sounds of brass bands playing until sunrise. All true.

The North Side Skull & Bone Gang - Full Length
The North Side Skull & Bone Gang

But for 200 years, in the Treme neighborhood just outside the French Quarter, Mardi Gras Day conjures a different image all together.

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.

Victoria Rivera
North Side Skull and Bones Gang
Victoria Rivera
North Side Skull and Bones Gang
Victoria Rivera
North Side Skull and Bones Gang

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.  

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