Aaron Walker, director . Bury the Hatchet . 2010 . DVD 86 minutes, color . New Orleans : Cine Marais . .

Somebody Gotta Sew, Sew, Sew.

—Song lyrics by Big Chief Monk Boudreaux and the Golden Eagles, 1988

The tradition of masking as Indians within Black and Creole communities in New Orleans has deep cultural and historical roots. Within this tradition, the title “Big Chief” signifies the highest rank in the tribe and is a position of honor and leadership. The documentary film Bury the Hatchet presents an up close look at Mardi Gras Indian culture in New Orleans by focusing on the lives of three of its famed Big Chiefs—Alfred Doucette, Monk Boudreaux, and Victor Harris. The overarching theme of the film—maintenance of tradition in the face of adversity—is underscored repeatedly in the lives, memories, and experiences of each chief, before and just after Hurricane Katrina. Bury the Hatchet has won several awards, including being named the Best Louisiana Feature at the 2010 New Orleans Film Festival and winner of the Grand Prize and Intangible Culture Award at the Royal Anthropological Institute Festival of Ethnographic Film in Leeds, England.

Bury the Hatchet is at first disorienting as it introduces a world of people, expressions, songs, dance, and ways of being in family and community that is unfamiliar to many, a hidden Mardi Gras on the backstreets of New Orleans. But there is much to learn by viewing Walker's emotionally engaging and culturally informative film. He presents good imagery of men working together, singing together, and sewing together. Walker's film is a male-oriented look at Mardi Gras Indian culture, visually expressed in the life and work of three of its most notable practitioners.

Aaron C. Walker is a New Orleans–based filmmaker. His earlier work includes an award-winning short film Summer Light, as well as music videos. Walker's first feature-length film, Bury the Hatchet, is not a lone documentary on an obscure culture, but rather: Walker's film is an excellent companion to the 1983 documentary film, Black Indians of New Orleans—part of the Faces of Culture series. It is also a good follow-up to Lisa Katzman's film Tootie's Last Suit, which is a 2006 documentary portrait of the late Tootie Montana at the age of 81. Montana, whose life and death also play a key role in Walker's film, is a former Big Chief of the Yellow Pocahontas Hunters Mardi Gras Indian tribe. Bury the Hatchet was produced the same year as another award-winning documentary about Mardi Gras Indians entitled, Flags, Feathers, and Lies, a powerfully produced film by Julie Belafonte that delivers vivid imagery and an analytically substantive discussion of African American history and heritage. In addition to starring in Walker's film, Big Chief Alfred Doucette also stars in a 2011 feature short, directed by the young Big Chief Brian Harrison Nelson, entitled Keeper of the Flame. Although Walker's film would be strengthened by a more critical interpretation of African American heritage in the context of kinship and family, religion, social organization, poverty, environmental racism, and other vulnerabilities of place, it is a timely film. Its message of keeping tradition alive is an important one, especially in light of Hurricane Katrina. Then again, this is a film about New Orleans and Mardi Gras, and for 86 minutes you feel the music.