Joseph Pierre “Big Chief Monk” Boudreaux is the leader of the Golden Eagles Mardi Gras Indian tribe in New Orleans, Louisiana. Through his dedication to this singular African-American tradition, Boudreaux has distinguished himself as a gifted folk artist, cultural icon, and dynamic musician.
The New Orleans Black Indians emerged in the late 19th century, appearing as tribes donning stunning costumes (or “suits”) that combine the aesthetics of Native American and Afro-Caribbean Carnival traditions. Completely handmade, these suits feature brightly colored feathers, intricate beadwork, rhinestones, sequins, satin, and ruffles.
Boudreaux began costuming, or “masking,” at age seven and joined the White Eagles tribe at age 12. He drew inspiration from his father Raymond, who was a member of the Wild Squatoulas. Boudreaux later became Big Chief of the Golden Eagles, which he continues to lead to this day.
In the 1960’s and 70’s, Boudreaux and other Mardi Gras Indians blended their traditions with R&B and funk styles. Since then, Boudreaux has become an international musical figure and award-winning recording artist through a career spanning half a century.
Boudreaux and the Golden Eagles have performed annually at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival since its inception in 1970. He now manages the festival’s Jazz and Heritage Stage, a showcase for New Orleans’ tradition-bearers.
Boudreaux portrayed himself in HBO’s Tremé and was highlighted in the award-winning documentary “Bury the Hatchet.” He also stars in the Voice of the Wetlands All-Stars, which draws attention to coastal erosion as a major environmental issue. In 2016, Boudreaux was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.