NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — With inflation, Mardi Gras Indians are now struggling to afford the high price of feathers to make their beautiful, elaborate suits.

Calvin “Medicine Man Cal” Williams is a Mardi Gras Indian in the Ninth Ward Black Hatchet Tribe. Right now, he’s creating his elaborate suit, but the cost to make it has sky rocketed.

“Feathers are expensive. When I first started, they were $250 a pound. Now they are like $650 a pound,” he said.

Because his tribe orders in bulk, feathers are discounted at $450 a pound, but that’s still steep. They order the feathers from Africa, and they are ostrich feathers, and custom dipped in dye.

“You need the feathers. That’s what makes the Indian suit. I can go on Canal Street and get some beads, but I can’t go on Canal Street to get feathers,” Williams said.

Medicine Man Cal told his neighbor, Midge “Mambo Midge” Howe, about the feather prices crisis, so she started a GoFundMe for him.

“He’s keeping our culture alive, and it is all coming out of his pocket. If we don’t help as a community to keep the community alive, we’re not going to see as many Mardi Gras Indians on the street,” she said.

To make Medicine Man Cal’s suit, it costs about $5,000. So, with Midge’s help, they raised the necessary money, but three other tribe members in the Ninth Ward Black Hatchet Tribe still don’t have enough money for their suits.

“My son, he’s the Big Chief, and his wife the Queen need help, also our Spy Boy needs help,” Williams said.

“With increasing costs, we are losing some of these beautiful parts of our culture and our Mardi Gras,” Mambo Midge said.

Local artist Kelly Boyett has also joined in to help. She made a painting of “Medicine Man Cal” and she’s raffling it off for $25.

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