The Native American Church teaches a combination of Christianity and traditional Native American beliefs. As such, its practices can vary significantly from tribe to tribe, as indigenous practices vary widely across the Americas. The Church originally formed in the state of Oklahoma. Today it still primarily operates in the United States, particularly in the western states, as well as in parts of Canada.
The term "Native American Church" does not apply to those Native Americans who solely follow traditional tribal beliefs, nor does it apply to Native Americans who are entirely Christian.
Many Native American tribes traditionally made use of a chemical known as peyote in their religious rituals. As the United States government became more involved in the control of various drugs, users of peyote were potentially facing legal issues related to their religious use of peyote.
The Native American Church was officially created in 1918 to bypass this problem. By practicing an organized religion, it was much easier for peyote users to argue that peyote use should be Constitutionally protected as a religious practice.
Legal Issues of Peyote:
Reasons for Peyote:
Outsiders commonly think of peyote as simply being a means of getting high, but those who use it for religious purposes see it as being sacramental. The plant is understood to be sacred, and ingestion of it brings the user into a closer understanding of the spiritual world.
Larger doses – and, thus, more intense hallucinations – may be used to accomplish specific goals, allowing the user to more fully interact with the spiritual world. Smaller doses, often delivered in a drink, are used in a manner similar to that of smoking ganja by Rastas: To open the mind and free it to better comprehend things beyond that of the mundane world.