Pall bearers raise the casket of 7th Ward resident Barbara Sparks, the preeminent Mardi Gras Indian Big Queen, at a funeral held Saturday July 26, 2008 in the Treme neighborhood of New Orleans. Sparks died Sunday of heart failure at her home in the 7th Ward. She was 64. The Mardi Gras Indian tradition is said to have originated from an affinity between Africans and Indians as minorities within the dominant culture in the mid-19th century. Others say the secretive Indian 'gangs' began appearing in the city in the 1880's as an homage to the Native Americans who sheltered runaway slaves. Traditional the tribes were all-male but women begin appearing in the tribes in the late 20th century.