Native American Church

The Native American Church (NAC), also known as Peyotism and Peyote Religion, is a Native American religion that teaches a combination of traditional Native American beliefs and Christianity, with sacramental use of the entheogen peyote.[1] The religion originated in the U.S. State of Oklahoma in the late nineteenth century after peyote was introduced to the southern Great Plains from Mexico.[1][2][3] Today it is the most widespread indigenous religion among Native Americans in the United States (except Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians), Canada (specifically First Nations people in Saskatchewan and Alberta), and Mexico, with an estimated 250,000 adherents as of the late twentieth century.[4][5][6][7]

Native American Church
USVA headstone emb-12
Native American Church's symbol
ClassificationNative American
FounderQuanah Parker
Origin19th century
United States
SeparationsBig moon peyotism

History of the peyote religion

Peyote road
Peyote road
TCMI Peyote set
A peyote set such as this is used by the medicine man during the peyote ritual.
Peyote ceremony tipi
Peyote ceremony tipi

Historically, many denominations of mainstream Christianity made attempts to convert Native Americans to Christianity in the Western Hemisphere. These efforts were partially successful, for many Native American tribes reflect Christian creed, including the Native American Church. Although conversion to Christianity was a slow process, the tenets of the Native American Church were more readily accepted.[8]

Originally formed in the state of Oklahoma, the Native American Church is monotheistic, believing in a supreme being, called the Great Spirit.[1] The tenets of the Native American Church regard "peyote" as a sacred and holy sacrament and use it as a means to communicate with the Great Spirit (God).[8]

Ceremony and roles

Followers of the Native American Church have differing ceremonies, celebrations, and ways of practicing their religion. For example, among the Teton, the Cross Fire group uses the Bible for sermons, which are rejected by the Half Moon followers, though they each teach a similar Christian morality.[3] Ceremonies commonly last all night, beginning Saturday evening and ending early Sunday morning. Scripture reading, prayer, singing, and drumming are included.[1] In general, the Native American Church believes in one supreme God, the Great Spirit.

Ceremonies are generally held in a tipi and require a priest, pastor, or elder to conduct the service.[8] The conductor is referred to as the Roadman. The Roadman is assisted by a Fireman, whose task is to care for the holy fireplace, being sure that it burns consistently all night. The Roadman may use a prayer staff, a beaded and feathered gourd, a small drum, cedar, and his eagle feather as a means for conducting services. The Roadman's wife or other female relative prepares four sacramental foods and the "second breakfast" that are part of the church services. Her part takes place very early, between 4:30 and 5:00 in the morning. The four sacramental foods are water, shredded beef or "sweet meat", corn mush, and some version of berry. To counterbalance the bitterness of the peyote consumed during the services, the sweet foods were added later. The second breakfast is like any other breakfast. It generally includes boiled eggs, toast, hash brown potatoes, coffee, and juice. This meal is served well after sunrise and just prior to the closing of the church services.

Church services are not regular Sunday occurrences but are held in accordance with special requests by a family for celebrating a birthday, or for a memorial or funeral service. Services begin at sundown on either a Friday or Saturday evening and end at sunrise. Thus, a participant "sits up" all night, giving up a full night's rest as part of a small sacrifice to the Great and Holy Spirit and his Son.

The church services culminate in a feast for the whole community the following day. Because peyote is a stimulant, all of the participating members are wide awake, so they, too, attend the feast. The need for sleep is generally felt in the late afternoon, particularly after the feast. Gifts are given to the Roadman and all his helpers by the sponsoring family at the feast to show deep appreciation for all his hard work.”[8]

Common reasons for holding a service include: the desire to cure illness, birthday celebrations, Christian holidays, school graduations, and other significant life events.[9]

Persecution and law

As the United States government became more involved in the control of drugs, the Native American Church faced possible legal issues regarding their use of the substance.[1] The Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978, also called the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, was passed to provide legal protection for the Church's use of peyote.[8]

The controversy over peyote resulted in its legal classification as a controlled drug. Thus, only card-carrying members of the Native American Church are allowed to transport, possess, and use peyote for religious purposes.[8]

The Neo-American Church tried to claim LSD and marijuana as sacraments, seeking protection similar to that afforded to peyote use by the Native American Church. The courts ruled against them.

Influential people

Quanah Parker is the individual most associated with the early history of Peyotism and the Native American Church. Other prominent figures in its development include Chevato, Jim Aton, John Wilson, and Jonathan Koshiway. These people, and many others, played important roles in the introduction and adoption of the Native American Church.[9]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e Catherine Beyer. "Peyote and the Native American Church". Religion & Spirituality. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  2. ^ Archived 20 June 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ a b "Native American Church". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  4. ^ "Native American Church". Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  5. ^ "World Religions & Spirituality - Native American Church". Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  6. ^ "University of Virginia Library". 7 September 2006. Archived from the original on 14 December 2007. Retrieved 9 July 2011.
  7. ^ "'A Brief History of the Native American Church'". CSP. 1996.
  8. ^ a b c d e f "Encyclopedia of the Great Plains - NATIVE AMERICAN CHURCH". Retrieved 28 June 2017.
  9. ^ a b "Native American Church - The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture". Retrieved 28 June 2017.


  • Hayward, Robert. The Thirteenth Step: Ancient Solutions to the Contemporary Problems of Alcoholism and Addiction using the Timeless Wisdom of The Native American Church Ceremony. Native Son Publishers Inc., 2011. ISBN 0983638403. -- Describes the Native American Church Ceremony.
  • Stewart, Omer C. Peyote Religion: A History. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1987.

External links

Carl Sweezy

Carl Sweezy (1881–1953) was a Southern Arapaho painter from Oklahoma. He painted individual portraits, but was best known for his portrayals of ceremonies and dances.

Cherokee Nation of Mexico

The Cherokee Nation of Mexico, also known as the Cherokee Nation of Sequoyah of Mexico, Texas, and U.S.A. Reservation and Church is an organization of individuals who claim descent from Cherokee tribe who migrated to Mexico during the 19th century. They are an unrecognized tribe with a presence in Zaragoza, Coahuila, Mexico. According to Robert J. Conley, the Cherokee Nation of Mexico is recognized by the state of Coahuilla; however, according to the Instituto Nacional de Lenguas Indígenas, which manages the official surveys of indigenous groups in Mexico, the only Native Mexicans in Coahuila are the Kickapoo people.Their chief is Charles L. Rogers. Charles L. Rogers, the Ancient Cherokee Church of Mexico, the Cherokee Nation of Mexico, and the Native American Church sued American Express Bank and others in Texas Western District Court in 2013.The Cherokee Nation of Mexico Texas and Coahuila Reservation and Church was headquartered in Brownsville, Texas, United States. Today they are an IRS 170(b)(1)(A)(i) organization, listed as a "Religion-Related, Spiritual Development" and Christian church, with Unconditional Tax Exemption, located in Dripping Springs, Texas.

Eagle-bone whistle

The eagle bone whistle is a highly sacred religious object, used by some members of Native American spiritual societies in particularly sacred ceremonies. They are made from bones of either the American bald eagle or the American golden eagle, and are considered extremely powerful spiritual objects.

Employment Division v. Smith

Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990), is a United States Supreme Court case that held that the state could deny unemployment benefits to a person fired for violating a state prohibition on the use of peyote, even though the use of the drug was part of a religious ritual. Although states have the power to accommodate otherwise illegal acts performed in pursuit of religious beliefs, they are not required to do so.

Hair drop

A hair drop is an ornament worn by men from Great Lakes and Plains tribes. It would be tied to the man's hair. The typical example consists of a quilled or beaded section on a strip of leather, which was later attached to an American buffalo tail. They could be over two feet long.Early hair drops were decorated with porcupine quillwork.As more Europeans arrived on Plains Indian lands in the later 19th century, glass beadwork became more common. Hair drops are frequently adorned with tin cones, silver, and feathers. The horse hair drop can be dyed for effect. One 1870 Cheyenne hair drop was adorned with peacock feathers.In the late 19th century, hair drops incorporated German silver disks, known as hair plates. Hair plates were most popular from 1835 to 1870, but are still made today for powwow and ceremonial regalia. The men's hair drops are distinguished from women's hair plates, because the women wear theirs from belts at their waists.

Hair drops could have ceremonial importance. One Piegan Blackfeet hair drop was worn to bring prosperity and included horse hair to protect the owner's horse.The term hair drop is also used for braids of human hair worn by Plains men, attached to adornment. For instance, hair drops have been attached to Kiowa mescal bean bandoleer worn in Native American Church regalia.Today 19th century hair drops are highly collectible and often sold by non-Native traders for thousands of dollars.

Humphry Osmond

Humphry Fortescue Osmond (1 July 1917 – 6 February 2004) was an English psychiatrist who expatriated to Canada, then moved to work in the United States. He is known for inventing the word psychedelic and for his research into interesting and useful applications for psychedelic drugs. Osmond also explored aspects of the psychology of social environments, in particular how they influenced welfare or recovery in mental institutions.

Kiowa Five

The Kiowa Six, previously known as the Kiowa Five, is a group of six Kiowa artists from Oklahoma in the early 20th century. They were Spencer Asah, James Auchiah, Jack Hokeah, Stephen Mopope, Lois Smoky, and Monroe Tsatoke.


Mescaline (3,4,5-trimethoxyphenethylamine) is a naturally occurring psychedelic alkaloid of the phenethylamine class, known for its hallucinogenic effects comparable to those of LSD and psilocybin.

It occurs naturally in the peyote cactus (Lophophora williamsii), the San Pedro cactus (Echinopsis pachanoi), the Peruvian torch (Echinopsis peruviana), and other members of the Cactaceae plant family. It is also found in small amounts in certain members of the Fabaceae (bean) family, including Acacia berlandieri. However those claims concerning Acacia species have been challenged and have been unsupported in additional analysis.

Monroe Tsatoke

Monroe Tsatoke (1904–1937) was a Kiowa painter and a member of the Kiowa Five from Oklahoma.

Native American religion

Native American religions are the spiritual practices of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. This article focuses on Native North Americans. Traditional Native American ceremonial ways can vary widely and are based on the differing histories and beliefs of individual tribes, clans, and bands. Early European explorers describe individual Native American tribes and even small bands as each having their own religious practices. Theology may be monotheistic, polytheistic, henotheistic, animistic, shamanistic, pantheistic or any combination thereof, among others. Traditional beliefs are usually passed down in the forms of oral histories, stories, allegories, and principles, and rely on face to face teaching in one's family and community.


Lophophora williamsii () or peyote () is a small, spineless cactus with psychoactive alkaloids, particularly mescaline. Peyote is a Spanish word derived from the Nahuatl, or Aztec, peyōtl [ˈpejoːt͡ɬ], meaning "glisten" or "glistening". Other sources translate the Nahuatl word as "Divine Messenger". Peyote is native to Mexico and southwestern Texas. It is found primarily in the Chihuahuan Desert and in the states of Coahuila, Nuevo León, Tamaulipas, and San Luis Potosí among scrub. It flowers from March to May, and sometimes as late as September. The flowers are pink, with thigmotactic anthers (like Opuntia).

Known for its psychoactive properties when ingested, peyote is used worldwide, having a long history of ritualistic and medicinal use by indigenous North Americans. Peyote contains the hallucinogen mescaline.

Peyote song

Peyote songs are a form of Native American music, now most often performed as part of the Native American Church. They are typically accompanied by a rattle and water drum, and are used in a ceremonial aspect during the sacramental taking of peyote.

Peyote stitch

The peyote stitch, also known as the gourd stitch, is an off-loom bead weaving technique. Peyote stitch may be worked with either an even or an odd number of beads per row. Both even and odd count peyote pieces can be woven as flat strips, in a flat round shape, or as a tube. Tubular peyote is used to make pouches or to decorate objects such as bottles or fan handles.

Many cultures around the world have used peyote stitch in their beadwork. Examples of peyote stitch have been found in artifacts from Ancient Egypt, and the stitch has also been used in historic and contemporary Native American beadwork. The name "peyote stitch" derives from the use of this stitch to decorate objects used in peyote ceremonies by members of the Native American Church. The name "gourd stitch" similarly derives from the use of the stitch in decorating gourd containers.

Psychoactive cactus

Many cacti are known to be psychoactive, containing phenethylamine alkaloids such as mescaline However, the two main ritualistic (folkloric) genera are Echinopsis, of which the most psychoactive species is the San Pedro cactus (Echinopsis pachanoi, syn. Trichocereus pachanoi), and Lophophora, with peyote (Lophophora williamsii) being the most psychoactive species. Several other species pertaining to other genera are also psychoactive, though not always used with a ritualistic intent.

Quanah Parker

Quanah Parker (Comanche kwana, "smell, odor") (c. 1845 or 1852 – February 20, 1911) was a war leader of the Quahadi ("Antelope") band of the Comanche Nation. He was born into the Nokoni ("Wanderers") band, the son of Comanche chief Peta Nocona and Cynthia Ann Parker, an Anglo-American, who had been kidnapped as a child and assimilated into the tribe. Following the apprehension of several Kiowa chiefs in 1871, Quanah emerged as a dominant figure in the Red River War, clashing repeatedly with Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie. With European-Americans deliberately hunting American bison, the Comanches' primary sustenance, into extinction, Quanah eventually surrendered and peaceably led the Quahadi to the reservation at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

Quanah Parker was never elected chief by his people but was appointed by the federal government as principal chief of the entire Comanche Nation, and became a primary emissary of southwest indigenous Americans to the United States legislature. In civilian life, he gained wealth as a rancher, settling near Cache, Oklahoma. Though he encouraged Christianization of Comanche people, he also advocated the syncretic Native American Church alternative, and passionately fought for the legal use of peyote in the movement's religious practices. He was elected deputy sheriff of Lawton in 1902. After his death in 1911, the leadership title of Chief was replaced with Chairman; Quanah is thereby described as the "Last Chief of the Comanche," a term also applied to Horseback.

He is buried at Chief's Knoll on Fort Sill. Many cities and highway systems in southwest Oklahoma and north Texas, once southern Comancheria, bear references to his name.

Silver Horn

Silver Horn or Haungooah (1860–1940) was a Kiowa ledger artist from Oklahoma.

Stephen Mopope

Stephen Mopope (1898–1974) was a Kiowa painter, dancer, and flute player of Spanish descent, from Oklahoma. He was the most prolific member of the Kiowa Five.

Temple of the True Inner Light

The Temple of the True Inner Light is a temple in Manhattan which believes Entheogens such as Dipropyltryptamine, Cannabis, LSD-25, Mescaline, Psilocybin and DMT to be God, and that religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, etc., originally believed that Entheogens are the true God. Their Eucharist is Dipropyltryptamine.The Temple was originally a sect of the Native American Church.

Water drum

Water drums are a category of membranophone characterized by the filling of the drum chamber with some amount of water to create a unique resonant sound. Water drums are used all over the world, including American Indian music, and are made of various materials, with a membrane stretched over a hard body such as a metal, clay, or wooden pot.

Water drumming, the tambor de agua (Spanish: drum of water), bungo, or liquindi, of African origin, is water, such as a river, which is played by striking the surface directly with one's hands. It is performed by the Baka in Africa, and in South America by the descendants of slaves, with strokes comparable to the culoepuya.

Notable historic
Historic bands
within contemporary
Culture and
Notable people
Westward expansion
and conflicts
Related articles

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.