Wild Indians - Traditional mas in Grenada

Wild Indian mas is another one of the traditional mas practiced in Grenada during the carnival season. Wild Indian mas is more at risk of cultural loss as there are very small participation numbers, and the mas has become limited to only one or two small bands.


Origin

Wild Indian is derived from the Amerindian heritage and Amerindian inhabitation of the island of Grenada. The Amerindians who migrated from South America and settled in Grenada were mainly the Kalinagos or the Carib. The Amerindians were living in Grenada before the arrival of European settlers. When Christopher Columbus "discovered" or sighted Grenada in 1498, the Kalinago were living there. Years later, the tragedy at leapers hill in the parish of Saint Patrick's resulted in the death of hundreds of Kalingos, with the remaining Kalingos forced into slavery. They were later replaced by the slaves from West Africa.


About the mas

The Wild Indian mas mimics or depicts the Indian or Amerindian. In Grenada, the mas was originally played by villagers in the community of Byelands, Saint Andrew's. Today, the parish which retains the playing of Wild Indian mas is Saint David. There is a small group within the community of Belle Isle in Saint David who continues to play Wild Indians. The mas is played by men, women and young children.


Appearance of the Wild Indian

The Wild Indian is dressed in colourful clothing including a skirt, worn by both men and women. Paint can be seen on the faces, legs and arms of the Wild Indian, typically white and red paint. The face is painted in red to depict rou-cou or the red dye which was used by the original Amerindians on their bodies. The men wear tall, colourful feathered headdresses which are elaborate in design. The headdress is a feature of the chief or head Indian of the Amerindians. The other players wear smaller feathered headdresses. The Wild Indians wear adorned beaded jewelry around their arms, ankles and necks. The men also can be seen with a long wooden spear which provides the appearance of an Indian warrior in battle.


Parade

The Wild Indian can be seen during the traditional mas activity held in July each year in St. Mark's. The Wild Indian is also featured during Kiddies Carnival and on the road on Carnival Monday and Tuesday. The Wild Indians parade the street without music, instead they engage in their own chants. They are peaceful masquerades.


It is also customary for fancy mas bands to depict wild indians as pat of their fancy mas parade, either for children or adults.

Photo credits: Flickr


Wild Indian mas is also played in Trinidad and Tobago. Although the look of the Wild Indian is closer to fancy mas rather than traditional mas.


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