From a press release from Faces of Culture/Allison Montana Institute of Art, Culture, and Tradition Yellow Pocahontas Mardi Gras Indian Tribe:
New Orleans City Council Pays Tribute to the Legacy Of Allison “Big Chief Tootie” Montana by Acknowledging and Establishing the first day Carnival /Mardi Gras as the Allison “Big Chief Tootie” Montana Day in the City of New Orleans
Today at 10am, members of the New Orleans City Council and Mardi Gras Indian tribes, community members, supporters, friends, and family gather in City Council chambers to pay tribute to the legacy of Allison Marcel Montana, “Big Chief Tootie” “Chief of Chiefs, and Chief of the Yellow Pocahontas Mardi Gras Indian Tribe. Allison Montana, a master artisan, dedicated more than 53 years to the indigenous cultural tradition of “Masking Indian.”
June 27, 2005, Allison “Big Chief Tootie” Montana, a cultural warrior and leader, tragically passed away while he was addressing the Council on the unwarranted, violent, and illegal assault on Mardi Gras Indians, neighborhood residents, senior citizens, and children. Big Chief Tootie was in the middle of recounting half of a century of history of police harassment and abuse when stricken. His last words were “I want this to stop.”
Television news cameras captured his fall as the chiefs and others who loved and respected him took up the hymn “Indian Red.”
After his passing, the public hearing was originally scheduled to reconvene in September of 2005 but, because of Hurricane Katrina, the levee breach, and the aftermath, a hearing was never rescheduled. Today, establishing the first day of Carnival/Mardi Gras as the Allison “Big Chief Tootie” Montana Day will serve as impetus for conversations among members of the New Orleans City Council, City Administration, the New Orleans Police Department, and all Cultural Bearers, namely, the Mardi Gras Indians, to address the lack of understanding and appreciation for indigenous traditions unique to our city. Most importantly, these conversations, along with policies and procedures regarding culture and traditional practices will end the harassment, disrespect, and cruelty exhibited by some police officers.
Seven years after his passing, those same cruelties Big Chief Tootie spoke of continue today. It must stop!
Allison “Big Chief Tootie” Montana died a warrior’s death in council chambers fighting for the respect of a cultural tradition that defines the City of New Orleans. Today the Indian community hopes the city will provide real and lasting protection and respect for the indigenous traditions of the Mardi Gras Indians and all Cultural Bearers as well as develop a profound understanding of those they aim to serve and see the world as the cultural community sees it. The Mardi Gras Indian community, supporters, friends and family of Allison "Big Chief Tootie” Montana appreciates the leadership and commitment of the New Orleans City Council. Collectively, we look forward to the city taking more permanent action to ensure that the sacred tradition is forever respected and protected. Moreover, the yearly acknowledgement and celebration of the legacy of Allison “Big Chief Tootie” Montana will spark the interest of the young, perpetuate the “Masking Indian” tradition, and ensure full protection and respect for New Orleans indigenous cultural traditions.
The public is invited to attend a wreath laying by the Montana family at the Allison “Big Chief Tootie” Montana statue inside of Armstrong Park at 4:00 pm on Friday January 6, 2012 followed by a Mardi Gras Indian Film Festival at 5:00pm at the Golden Feather Mardi Gras Indian Gallery and Restaurant located at 704 North Rampart Street across from the historic Congo Square.