Peyote Law Has Navajos in Bind 

Peyote Law Has Navajos in Bind 
Posted by FoM on December 06, 1999 at 13:26:43 PT
The Associated Press 
Source: ABQjournal
As illegal use of hallucinogenic peyote buttons rises, including Navajo teens who are smoking it, Navajo Nation legislators are looking for ways to restrict the drug's usage without obstructing those who use it for religious purposes. 
Under federal law, only Native Americans can use the hallucinogenic cactus button as part of their religion. Native American Church members ingest the peyote cactus in a tea, mush or powder form. Seeing visions is part of the spiritual experience.  Sun Dancers and Navajo traditionalists also use the cactus button for religious purposes.  It is the nonbelievers who use peyote to get high or to make money the Navajo lawmakers are concerned about.  The Navajo tribal government held its first public hearing late last month in Chinle, Ariz., where the Native American Church of Navajoland's central office is located. The discussion will continue this week in Shiprock.  In a Nov. 14 letter, Navajoland Native American Church president Jesse Thompson, said, "It has been documented by law enforcement and the courts of the Navajo Nation that a stricter policy is needed to reduce unauthorized use and discourage abuse of the peyote."  Chief Legislative Counsel Steven Boos says some of the problems stem from the current law, which lists peyote as a controlled substance -- alongside hashish and five other substances -- but then creates an exception for the religious use of peyote.  If police seize peyote from a bootlegger, for instance, the prosecutor must show that the cactus was not used "in connection with recognized religious practices, sacraments or services of the Native American Church" before the peyote can be destroyed.  NAC leaders have asked legislators to remove peyote from the controlled substance list out of respect for what is considered a holy sacrament. Nonetheless, Navajo lawmakers would like stricter criminal laws.  A proposed new section of the law would authorize the use, possession, sale, trade and delivery of peyote by an Indian for bona fide ceremonial purposes in connection with a Navajo religion or a Native American Church.  An "Indian" would be defined as an enrolled member of a federally recognized tribe with 25-percent or more Indian blood. Violators would be sentenced to a maximum of 180 days in jail or fined a maximum of $2,500, or both. Seized peyote would be given to a Native American religious leader or Native American Church leaders chosen by the parents of the convicted person.  Boos said the blood requirement must be deleted, because the federal American Indian Religious Freedom Act does not require it. It also would violate the free exercise of religion clause of the Navajo Bill of Rights, he said.  The federal law protects the use of peyote as a part of any Indian religion, Boos said. Some practitioners of the traditional Navajo religion and the Sun Dance ceremonies have incorporated peyote into their rituals.  In New Mexico and Arizona, there are Anglos who practice the peyote way. An occasional non-Indian can be seen inside prayer meetings on the Navajo Nation, too. So, Navajo lawmakers must decide how strict the law will be for those people, including non-Indian spouses of Indians.  Shiprock Council Delegate Wallace Charley suggests that those people can partake in the ceremony if the roadman running the meeting or a NAC leader has invited them.  "The bottom line is it's religious," he said. "It has to do with your faith."  The Navajo criminal code -- which covers all kinds of offenses -- has not been revised since it was adopted in 1978. Published: December 6, 1999 Copyright and Albuquerque Journal 
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Comment #4 posted by Peyote _User on February 17, 2001 at 13:52:01 PT
Save our Religion!
Hi! I just had to give my support on the peyote issue here. As a Native American youth, I swear the freaking politicans just want to take what the Native Americans are striving for which to keep their religions and traditions alive before it disappears as did many to Americanism. Now that they taken most of our land and money , I guess that all that is left is Our beliefs and Our traditions! Dayum, Christians!! 
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Comment #3 posted by legalizeit on December 06, 1999 at 23:37:36 PT
Silly bureaucrats...
when will they ever learn... God must be laughing His head off at us, who make laws about and throw people in jail over the use of innocent PLANTS! What right does any human have to deny any other human the use of a plant which has existed before humans were even living in caves! On the other hand, a man-made substance which, unlike any of the plants currently outlawed, is KNOWN to induce violent behavior and causes thousands of needless deaths each year, is legal!That the government is even getting into Native American religious ceremonies makes me fume. Whatever happened to the separation of church and state? A hundred and fifty or so years ago, a bunch of pious, white Christian bigots forced their way into the Indians' soverign land, killed them, forced who they couldn't kill onto reservations... and now they are even trying to legislate how the Indians worship -- and the rest of us, for that matter! We can worship God, but not if we want to through the use of plant sacraments!To say that there are far more important things for government bureaucrats to spend their time and effort on is a vast understatement.
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on December 06, 1999 at 21:35:45 PT
Let Them Use Peyote!!!
I wish they would get it! Our country did enough bad things to the Indians and they shouldn't be denied Peyote since it is something they have used since time immemorial in their religious practices. I hate to say it but do they hassle them because they aren't "Christian"? Our government hates drugs but I'm beginning to think they don't want people to be at all spiritual, just drones.
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Comment #1 posted by observer on December 06, 1999 at 21:19:18 PT
only Native Americans can use Peyote for religion
> "Under federal law, only Native Americans can use the hallucinogenic cactus button as part of their religion."``Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ... ''Another Right thrown out the window there ... Not that those who are sworn to uphold the Bill of Rights actually do that. (But we're always hoping that one day they might start doing their jobs.)
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