Wild Indian

In Brief: The Wild Indian has been reported as the masquerade predecessor of the fancy Indian. Travelling in groups of around ten performers, and in single file line, the Wild Indian Mas is famous for developing a language of their own, used to greet and challenge other bands. Each band included a Chief, Scout, Band of Indian mas men, and a female mas player referred to as Eloina who would collect money thrown to the performers.

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Costuming: As reported by Hill, “The red Inidans are the oldest of the wild Indian specie.  Their costume consists of a short, red satin fringed skirt, a merino dyed red and decorated with paintings, feathers, or sequins, and a wig of black, frayed-out hemp rope.  Their headpiece is a high crown of wire covered with red paper, ribbon, and artificial roses, or a war bonnet made from chicken feathers dyed and painted, or sometimes a wire-and-paper effigy of a fish, bird, sailing ship or even an airplane.  The face is painted with roocoo, a red vegetable dye, and long strands of beads adorn the neck.  They carry wooden spears and staves and dance single..” (Quotation incomplete)

Sounds and Speech: The language of the Wild Indian appears to be a curious mixture of aboriginal Indian, Spanish, English, and perhaps French patois or Creole.  Dr. Crowley could find no linguist able to analyze the texts he collected from thee masqueraders.”  that references, Crowley, “traditional Masques” p.205, but is taken from the Hill text.

Continuing this discussion, “One of my informants who had played Indian for many years was able, on request, to rattle off several speeches in what he alleged was the “Warinari language” and to give the English version of each speech.  The challenges and responses had to be memorized word for word, and consequently “language classes” were held before carnival  for new members or for those graduating to warrior status.  As with the pierrot masquerade, failure to answer fluently all questions asked by the challenger or to brag convincingly about one’s prowess could lead to the defaulting warrior being badly beaten by the challenger and his followers.

Movement: Red indians, hill says, “carry wooden spears and staves and dance single file through the streets, chanting, shrieking, clapping, and singing traditional songs “of a very attractive meldious nature the works being in the Red Indian Language.

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Variations and Developments of Note: From Hill, “Nowadays, the authentic Wild Indian bands have been largely replaced by Fancy Indians, who, while derived from the earlier masquerade, emphasize elaborateness of costume to the detriment of the acting, dnace, mime, and speech traditions of their antecedents.”

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Related Characters: Warahoon, Fancy Indians (in terms of inspiration drawn from indigenous cultures) 

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Other Information: Hill states, p38, “Some masquerade bands actually performed short dramas in carnival tents as part of the festivities surrounding a coronation pageant.  There are several playlets in the repertoire of the Wild Indians that were staged on these occasions.  Day had seen South American Indians in the masquerade of 1848.  The specie known as Wild Indians is first mentioned in the carnival reports of 1900, but may well have been introduced earlier in the nineteenth century.  The wild Indian masquerade is based on a tribe of aborigial Indians, known as the Guarajo, or Warrahoon, from the Orinoco Delta in South America.  They used to visit the southern parts of Trinidad in their canoes to trade beads, parrots, hammocks, and other products for merchandise not available in their country.”

later Hill states,

“By the time we encounter them in the masquerade, Wild Indians are in festive dress and among the most ornately disguised characters.  As the years passed, and influenced by films portraying North American Indians, they split into four different tribes:  Red, Blue, Black, and White Indians, their names referring to costume rather than skin color.  They developed a system of hierarchy comprising royalty, chiefs, and senior and junior warriors, each rank having its parto play in the little drama enacted when two bands converged in the carnival street parade.

In 1958, when Dimanche Gras was taken over by a government financed committee, Wild Indians were included in the comprehensive portrayal,/compettition  along with borokit, midnight robbers, Negue Jadin, Pierrot Grenade, and Yankee.


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