Interesting Religious Sects Native American Sects Part 1

About the religious sect the Native American sects, history, size, and tradition of the Christian church.

THE NATIVE AMERICAN CHURCH

The Native American Church is made up of individuals from a number of American Indian tribes. While the roots of the church lie both in Christianity and traditional Indian belief, the church's religious rituals center on the use of peyote to bring the church members closer to themselves and to God.

Birth: The origins of the Native American Church date back to pre-Columbian times, when Aztec priests made use of peyote for healing and as a means of contact with the supernatural. After the Spanish defeated the Aztecs in 1521, the Catholic Church suppressed the use of drugs. However, in northern Mexico, where the peyote cactus is indigenous, the church was not successful in preventing annual peyote pageants, which combined elements of Christianity with ancient rituals. These peyote practices were first introduced into the U.S. by Quanah Parker, a half-breed Comanche, who fostered its use as a sacrament and medicine among his people.

Growth: As peyote rituals evolved in the 1880s among the Kiowa in the South, the Ghost Dance religion--which promised the disappearance of the white man and the return of the buffalo--was gaining popularity among the Plains Indians. When the Ghost Dance failed to prevent the massacre of 300 Indians at the Battle of Wounded Knee in 1890, the tribes at last lost faith in its power. Threatened with the possibility of cultural annihilation, many Plains Indians turned to the rituals of peyote.

By the early 1900s peyote use had become common among the Cheyenne, Comanche, Osage, Arapaho, Sioux, and most other tribes of the southern and northern plains and the Great Basin. Legal authorities and missionaries eager to convert the tribes to Christianity tried to have peyote classified as an intoxicant, and by 1910 laws prohibiting the possession and transportation of peyote were passed in many states.

As pressure mounted on Congress to legislate against the use of peyote, James Mooney of the Smithsonian Institution called for the formation of the Native American Church to give the peyote rituals a more respectable veneer. Beginning with its first chapter in Oklahoma, chartered in 1918, the Native American Church now has chapters in 12 states and Canada, and includes participants from over 50 tribes. But it still faces governmental opposition. Although it is now legal in some states for church members to possess peyote, they fear that at any time it may be reclassified as a dangerous drug by the Federal Narcotics Bureau.

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