Interesting Religious Sects Native American Sects Part 2

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

THE NATIVE AMERICAN CHURCH

Practices and Beliefs: All-night meetings begin after sundown on Saturday night and are held in a tepee. A line which represents the road of life ("the Peyote Road") is drawn from end to end through the crescent-shaped alter made of molded sand. From this line the leader--the Road Chief--derives his title. Participants sit in a circle around a fire. Everyone takes an equal part in the ceremony, with the exception of officers such as the Fire Man, the Cedar Man, the Drum Chief, and the Road Chief, all of whom have specific functions. To give structure to the meeting, corn husks are passed for rolling and smoking. As cedar incense is burned and fanned, a staff and drum are passed around the circle. The person holding the staff chants a prayer or sings a sacred song while the person next to him drums. The songs, usually sung in an unstressed style, are often traditional but can be either in English or the tribal language and sometimes express Christian beliefs. After the first smoke, peyote buttons are brought in, and each person takes as many as he wants. Drumming and singing continue until midnight, at which time a woman enters with water, and special midnight songs are sung. After midnight, the mood changes from an emphasis on dispelling evil to a focus on testimonials and an acceptance of good. Believing that attention to detail keeps thoughts in the right path, peyoteists give special concern to the sweeping of the fire's ashes and the length of the wood. The Road Chief is trained to make sure no one becomes too withdrawn. If this does occur, he fans the person affected, splashes water on his face, and may pray with him. No one is permitted to leave the meeting after it has started. When the first trace of light is seen through the tepee hole, dawn songs are sung, and a woman brings in traditional food of beef, corn, and berries, which everyone eats from a communal dish. Then the tepee flap is opened, and members go out into the sunlight.

Throughout the service individuals seek solutions to their problems, and psychiatrists have noted that the meetings are ego-strengthening. Participation in the Native American Church involves a belief in brotherly love, care of the family, self-reliance, and abstinence from alcohol. Members travel great distances to visit other tribes for services, and special meetings can be called at any time in case of emergency or for healing purposes. Whereas women have always played a traditional part in the service as the water and food bearers, some older women are full-fledged participants. Although the Native American Church makes use of Christian paraphernalia and is--as was the Ghost Dance--Christian-oriented, hostility from many Protestants and Catholics still exists over the use of drugs for visionary experiences. Members of the church feel that they were chosen over the white man to use peyote, and that while the white man may pray to God, the Indian speaks to him face to face.

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