Official Statement of National Council of Native American Churches & Indigenous Peyote Conservation Initiative on the “Decriminalization” Efforts of Peyote and Other Sacred Plants

Wild peyote cacti (Lophophora williamsii) of the south Texas Peyote Garden. Photograph by Dawn D. Davis, Newe Peyote Researcher.

The National Council of Native American Churches (NCNAC) and the Board of the Indigenous Peyote Conservation Initiative (IPCI) recognize that humans have utilized entheogenic plants for their health and wellbeing for millennia and respectfully requests that current efforts to decriminalize these relationships should consider the complexities of each plant or fungal medicine. This statement addresses the particular complex relationship of the law, our history, and social/cultural realities in the U.S. to the peyote cacti (Lophophora williamsii). 

Native American Church leadership respectfully request that Decriminalization efforts NOT mention peyote explicitly in any list of plants and fungi. 

It is extremely important that peyote be preserved for utilization by and for Indigenous peoples. Broken treaties in this land, the preciousness of native traditions, ecological threats to the medicine itself, and the importance of spiritual respect in its use makes peyote a tenuous plant to include explicitly in any decriminalization effort. It is important that non-Indigenous people respect and acknowledge the American Indian Religious Freedom Act Amendments of 1994 and take the lead from Indigenous leaders of the Native American Church/Azeé Bee of Diné Nation and bonafide spiritual organizations. 

Due to various anthropological causes, there is a shortage of peyote available for Indigenous practitioners of this venerable old religion, which is in fact a way of life for generations of Indian people. Indigenous people have fought for over a hundred years and continue to fight for their right to this medicinal sacrament and feel a deep sense of responsibility for the survival and care, as well as the preservation of their traditional way of worship with it. 

In the United States, peyote only grows naturally in a small area of southern Texas; its limited natural habitat is a significant factor in the current shortage. In addition, both the federal law and Texas state law permit only Indian people who are members of federally recognized tribes to legally acquire, possess, use, and transport peyote. Any local governmental resolution that gives non-native people the impression that they now have rights to acquire, possess, use, or transport that peyote in or from Texas would be misleading and may lead to their prosecution. 

A concern of the Board of IPCI and its Native American Church/ABNDN leaders is that, the message being portrayed within Decriminalization resolutions could provide a false sense of legality. Possession, transportation and use of peyote by non-natives is illegal under federal and state law. To the extent the “Decrim” movement sends a message to local citizens that peyote is “legal,” the collateral and unintended effort could be to increase interest in non-native persons either going to Texas to purchase peyote or to buy it from a local dealer who has acquired it illegally and unsustainably in Texas.

Both scenarios, we fear, will further foment the peyote black market and unsustainable practices in south Texas and compromise the decades long work on the part of Native American peyote spiritual leaders and allies. It is important to share that the federally recognized tribes of North America experienced the legalization of peyote only as recently as 1994, after decades of advocacy and landmark court cases, eventually being recognized with passing of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act Amendments. 

Our IPCI project is working hard to improve land management and conservation practices of the local ranchers, and to improve growing and harvesting conditions and methods. The ranchers we work with are very concerned about the rampant trespassing and destructive practices of illegal pickers which is likely to increase with the Decriminalization efforts. 

For non-native persons who want to avail themselves of relationships with entheogenic healing medicines that don’t harm the very fragile peyote population in south Texas or disrespect the spiritual and cultural norms of our Indigenous peoples, they should look for alternative medicines. 

We respectfully request that Decriminalization efforts or any other associated individual or organization not reference any Native American Church/ABNDN or the National Council of Native American Churches, or the Indigenous Peyote Conservation Initiative as a supporter of the Decriminalize Nature efforts in any way unless given permission.

In closing, we believe that the respectful course moving forward is to NOT include the word “peyote” in any local decriminalization resolutions, initiatives, or efforts, put before governing bodies. For persons who have questions or an interest in a deeper understanding, we’re happy to serve as a resource and provide educational materials or Indigenous spokespersons for education and support via technology or conduct in-person conversations.

With gratitude,

Steven Benally, President Azeé Bee Nahgha of Diné Nation  

Sandor Iron Rope, President Native American Church of South Dakota 

Arlen Lightfoot, President Native American Church of Oklahoma

Andrew Tso, President Native American Church of North America 

Dawn D. Davis, Newe (Shoshone-Bannock),PhD (c), Peyote Researcher

and the rest of the Board of Directors and Staff of the Indigenous Peyote Conservation Initiative

contact: info@ipci.life

Comments

  1. Sorry, but I don’t completely share this view, people should be able to grow and propagate peyote for their own use. Fragile natural resources however, should be maintained and limited to long standing indigenous relationships.
    The Herba Gnostica
    set of rights and obligations
    Humanity has a natural right to the plants of the earth, akin to our right of air and water. With this sacred right, comes sacred obligations.
    In all wild craft harvesting aspects preservation of the species must be considered. Do not take what can not be replaced. At times of shortage, long standing indigenous relationships must first be met.
    We claim the right to grow the sacred medicines to both partake of and preserve them.
    With the right to sacred plants, comes sacred self responsibility, know what you partake of. Messengers of Gaia will offer guidance for this path, but in the end, each is responsible for themselves.

    1. Although Mr.Bennet and myself have our differences,I tend to agree with his assessment.In fact,couldn’t have said it better myself.It is the stigma,of our modern times,to alienate things of such a debatable subject,to have to clarify the nature and reasons for things that expand the mind.Sadly,our laws and perceptions on things for the most part are misunderstood,is the murkiness through which serious consideration is hampered by a bias,manufactured by a biased mentality,making it difficult to achieve acceptance on a larger scale.Ans as always,the problems of non-regulated picking of said peyote,by groups looking to get high on something,other people consider sacred.

  2. Are we shut down? I’m a believer of the grandfather peyote, born and raised, and I would be saddened if we lost our way of life, I am 10% souix Indian from mosquito grizzly bear head lean man reservation, the first place they ever had a ceremony in Canada, please get back to me, I’m just curious

  3. Get researchers out…get andy out of prsidenty ..leave money out .No clonig…no bribery. Medicine will take of self..Not for Apple s of all races.

  4. fantastic put up, very informative. I ponder why the other specialists of this sector do
    not notice this. You must continue your writing. I’m sure,
    you have a great readers’ base already!

  5. I heard this from the Peyoté spirits, that unless it was legalized for everyone that it wouldn’t be legalized for use by native people.

  6. Thailand can gear up and supply the West (Native and otherwise) with as much as needed without pillaging the wild plants.

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  8. My name is Seth Rosenberg, Press Secretary for DecrimNatureDC.org. I wanted to say thank you for helping us to craft our message to one that better respects the heritage of the medicine and the people to whom it is sacred. I can tell you we have already modified our literature and are actively making corrections to say instead “Mescaline Bearing Cacti”. It is my personal hope that through better education, via the Decriminalize movement, people will learn that there are literally dozens of other cacti that contain psychoactive and entheogenic properties, including several echinopsis varieties which are commercially available in nurseries around the country. We would very much value the National Council of Native American Churches & Indigenous Peyote Conservation Initiative as allies to our movement and would welcome any additional guidance to help make our language more culturally responsible and inclusive.
    Thank You Again For Your Guidance On This Matter
    -Seth Rosenberg
    Seth@DecrimnatureDC.org

  9. Decriminalization may be the very way to increase the amount of available Peyote through legal grows in greenhouses and natural grows elsewhere. Obviously, even with it being illegal for decades now, the supplies continue to dwindle, mostly because of cattle ranchers turning these lands into pasture land for their cattle. Decriminalizing would allow us to buy lands where we could provide natural Peyote gardens and grow enough Medicine for everyone. All of Mother Earth’s Children need this Medicine. I believe that it can be done provided in a good way.

  10. It has only been a year since the National Council/IPCI have convened and conversed about the supply and demand of our scared herb on our behalf. With the help of IPCI, we were able make scared offerings and harvested a small amount of Azee’ with our children last spring under the direction and guidance of our Elders. For years we had been denied access to the garden and to experience the azee’ in its natural habitat. Children and Elders alike were elated to experience the spiritual connection. The last time this experience occurred was probably 30 years ago. Before we even savor our new found blessings here comes the Decrim. We, ABNDN, vehemently oppose this idea because we just barely set foot in the door to our God given right to our scared ways. Please let us reconnect with our medicine at the root and let us reteach our children without interference. There is a gap that needs to be filled before those that know leave without passing the knowledge on. If Decrim is enacted, Indigenous people will once again have the short end of the stick to their medicine and sacred ways.

  11. I’m very familiar with NAC, many family ties. I have carried the drum and sat with the cedar and I’m saying that this belief of limiting use to a specific religious group is not a sound argument and shouldn’t even be legally possible. This plant grows at a range of rates, some of which tend to be slow and small, but some genetic variants of this plant that have been organically cultivated because of the global right and desire to have a kinship to this medicine grow much larger and much faster, not talking about beefed up plants, but good honest global cultivars and people that absolutely love this medicine….. As native circles grow and evolve, as more non natives like myself get raised in those ways, we have to understand that the medicine is for the people, all Earth medicines work with the human being…. We cannot limit the growth size of the ‘bonafide religious groups’ and mathematically the natural peyote found in Mexico and Texas could never accommodate those groups sacramental needs anyways, not with industrial agricultural development in those regions… So Aho-mitakuye-oyasin I am Samuel Trezzo, Sundancer, ceremonial prayer person, confirmed Catholic as a young man, founder of Chyve LLC cannabis advocate and karmic rider for life…..I know, first hand, that we need this plant to survive. It grows anywhere, when grown right. Knowledge is power and respect the medicine, respect ourselves. Decriminalize to allow Homeland cultivation.
    It is all related. Aho.

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