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Peyote and the Native American Church


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.

Basic Beliefs:

Followers of the Native American Church are monotheists, believing in a supreme being commonly addressed as the Great Spirit. The Great Spirit often works through a variety of lesser spirits. Jesus plays a prominent role in their beliefs, often being equated with the spirit of the peyote plant. Care of family and tribe and avoidance of alcohol are central values of the Native American Church.


Chewing peyote buds and drinking peyote tea are central practices of the Native American Church. These ceremonies commonly last all night, often starting Saturday night and ending Sunday morning. Singing, drumming, dancing, scripture reading, prayer, and the sharing of spiritual ideas are all commonly included as well.


Peyote is the bud of a particular type of spineless cactus found in the United States and Mexico. The plant is a hallucinogenic and is commonly used in the rituals of the Native American Church. Peyote buds are commonly chewed for a more intense experience, but they can also be used in the brewing of tea for a more mild effect.

Legal Issues of Peyote:

Peyote use is commonly illegal in the United States, but exception is made for its use in Native American Church rituals. Even so, there are commonly limitations on what users are allowed to do under its effects, such as operating heavy machinery. In this matter, peyote is treated much the same way alcohol is.

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.

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