Native American Church
The Native American church has been the center of controversy for a number of years. While it aims to amalgamate the basic tenets of Christianity with traditional Native American practices, federal agencies have taken issue with the use of peyote in church rituals.
The Native American church evolved in the state of Oklahoma and has since then become the largest indigenous religion among Native Americans today. In an effort to bring together both Christian and Native American ideologies, the Native American church has distinguished itself in discarding any canons or doctrines of the Christian faith. It also incorporates Native American rituals and traditions and forbids the use of alcohol, violence and deceit.
The Problem With Peyote
The Native American church is known for its use of peyote in a number of its rituals. The history of peyote use can be traced back to the Indians who occupied the region of the Rio Grande. From there, its use gradually spread until it settled with the Indians living in reservations in Oklahoma.
Peyote is a small spineless cactus and its consumption has been known to have a hallucinogenic effect on the user. Peyote is generally used in an all-night ritual and is believed to allow the user to communicate directly with the Holy Spirit. When its use was first noticed among the Native American community, federal agencies tried to outlaw it, deeming it an illegal substance. This only spurred the Native American community to work together and make the church stronger. Today, the church is estimated to have roughly 225,000 members.
While the Native American church has since become an international organization, its relationship with federal authorities remains an uneasy one. In 1990, a Supreme Court ruling stated that it was up to the state to determine whether the use of peyote was acceptable as a part of religious practice or not. Many Native Americans feel this ruling is in violation of the first amendment and curbs their religious freedom.