The Native American Church, or NAC, and sometimes called Peyotism, is a pan-native american religion that is best known for the use of peyote as a sacrament. For members, the hallucinogenic property of the Peyote cactus is an essential source of profound spiritual information.
Religious consumption of peyote cactus bulbs originated in remote antiquity among indigenous peoples in a great land that today is known as Mexico. It spread northward rapidly from the 1880’s, first among the Kiowa in Oklahoma, and officially formed the Native American Church in about 1918, becoming a vital spiritual source in many reservation communities. Significant quantities chewed or prepared in tea induce powerful visions, inspiring the founders and leaders of the Native American Church, but milder brews heighten people’s awareness and enable them to focus on concerns beyond their everyday troubles. Peyote is consumed sacramentally, not recreationally, because it is understood to come from the Creator’s heart to bring healing, knowledge, and the motivation people need to lead healthy and moral lives. The NAC is the largest Peyotist movement. Legally incorporated in the United States in 1918, it arose from the teachings of prophets, such as john wilson and john rave, who experienced peyote as a healer and a guide, and who encouraged a fusion of indigenous and Christian practices. Indigenous traditional protocols blend local and continent-wide practices to make variations of rituals and address specific community needs. The NAC encourages respect for the earth and the use of natural products of it. Peyote Ceremonies usually take place overnight beginning on Saturday Evenings, and are led by a peyote Chief. The services include prayer, singing, the eating of peyote, water rites, and contemplation, and conclude with a communion breakfast on sunday morning. The way of life is called Peyote Road and enjoins brotherly love, family care, self-support through steady work, and avoidance of alcohol. Peyotism has experienced a great deal of persecution in its time. Although Peyote was banned by government agents in 1888 and later by 15 states, Congress, backed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the churches, and some native groups, resisted repeated attempts from 1916 to 1937 to have its use prohibited. These legal struggles against the criminalization of peyote as a “drug” have led to freedom of religion laws that permit its sacramental use, including among Native Americans in US Prisons.