Big Chief Demond Melancon
Demond Melancon was born in New Orleans and raised in the historic Lower Ninth Ward by his mother and grandmother. At the age of 13, he began learning about a hidden subculture known as the Mardi Gras Indians of New Orleans. He was initially granted access to this culture by an influential elder named Big Chief Ferdinand Bigard, who not only taught him how to create intricately beaded suits, but also taught him about their sacred traditions and rituals which date back to a two century bond formed between runaway slaves and Native Americans. Because of the struggles that Demond faced as a young black man growing up in the Ninth Ward with no father, he found refuge with the Mardi Gras Indians. From the late 1990s to 2011, Demond held a position known as Spyboy for the Seminole Hunters, a tribe based in the Lower Ninth Ward. In 2012 the elders of the Mardi Gras Indian community declared Demond would be known as Big Chief Demond of his very own tribe called the Young Seminole Hunters. For over 26 years Demond has been carrying on an important tradition to serve the needs of this tightly knit spiritual community.