Mescaline: History notes

Last modified: Monday, 1. June 2009 - 6:00 am

After a Piute shaman named Wovoka had an apocalyptic vision about the Second Coming of an Indian Jesus who would save them from the white man, he formed the Ghost Dance religion in 1889. Other tribal leaders sent representatives to learn about this trance-inducing dancing that went on for five nights. The violent shaking described by one government agent as crazed and disgusting was enough for the Bureau of Indian Affairs to decide it could pose a threat to the white settlers, and outlawed it. The Sioux Indians of South Dakota had the last Ghost Dance. They took so seriously the precepts of the ritual that they wore “ghost shirts” into the battle of Wounded Knee, thinking the shirts and the dance would protect them from the soldiers’ bullets. In one of the saddest tragedies of American history, more than 300 Indian men, women, and children were massacred.
In 1918, the Native American Church (NAC) was formed to provide a cohesion among Indian tribes as demoralization, alcoholism, and poverty threatened to undermine their ancient culture and traditions. The early founders of the NAC were considered prophets; they include John Wilson, John Rave, and the Comanche chief, Quanah Parker. James Mooney, an anthropologist from the Smithsonian Institute, was instrumental in helping get the church firmly established.
The church has incorporated formal laws to which they expect their members to adhere — they are to abstain from alcohol, be faithful to their spouses, not be sexually promiscuous, and be peaceful and free from deceit.
Peyote use in the ritual revolves around a person called the Roadman who is responsible for leading the ceremony. Drumming, singing, and dancing are all part of this carefully structured ritual that came to be known as The Peyote Road.
In 2002, there were more than 250,000 members of the NAC in the United States and Canada. As many as 24 states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming — have NAC member churches.

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