Native American Church

General Information

The Native American Church is a religious body composed of Indians from several tribes mainly in the southwest United States. The church combines some teachings of traditional Christianity with the sacramental use of the drug Peyote. Peyote induces abnormal mental states or hallucinations when chewed, giving the user a sense of direct contact with God. The church's peyote ceremony is an all - night ritual. Since the turn of the century efforts have been made to curtail the use of peyote in this ritual, and in 1990 the US Supreme Court ruled that it is not unconstitutional to prosecute church members for possession of peyote. The movement began about 1890 among the Kiowa Indians but soon spread. Since 1918 the Native American Church has been formally incorporated in several Western states. It is loosely organized, however, and lacks reliable membership figures.

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C Conrad Wright

D F Aberle, The Peyote Religion among the Navajo (1982); E F Anderson, Peyote (1980); O C Stewart, Peyote Religion (1987) and Peyotism in the West (1984).

The individual articles presented here were generally first published in the early 1980s. This subject presentation was first placed on the Internet in May 1997.

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