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“They Don’t Make Prayerful Offerings When They Harvest,” Story Of The Native American Church

“The extraordinary and the phenomenon are not necessarily unexpected, but they are definitely not precluded.”

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The sun sets over the gateway of peyotera Amada Cardenas's house in Mirando City, Texas. Ironwork reflects core Native American Church values of faith, hope, love and charity. VOA

Back in the day, when the “grandmas and grandpas” of the Native American Church (NAC) needed peyote, they would make a 2,000-kilometer pilgrimage from the reservations of South Dakota to the tiny town of Mirando City, Texas, close to the U.S. border with Mexico. That’s where they could find Amada Cardenas, a Mexican-American woman who at the time was the only peyote dealer in Texas.

Cardenas was not Native American, nor was she a member of the NAC. But she understood how sacred the medicine was to church members and defended its use as a religious sacrament to those who sought to ban it.

Amada Cardenas, holding a basket of peyote, outside of her home in Mirando City, Texas, 1994.
Amada Cardenas, holding a basket of peyote, outside of her home in Mirando City, Texas, 1994. VOA

“After Amada’s passing, the peyote distribution system lost heart and seemed to be about monetary compensation,” said Iron Rope, former chairman of the Native American Church of North America (NACNA) and today chairman of the NAC of South Dakota. He is concerned that the remaining three or four peyote dealers in Texas — all non-Native — don’t give “the medicine” the reverence they should.

“They don’t make prayerful offerings when they harvest,” Iron Rope said. “We’ve heard reports about intoxicated harvesters. Sometimes, the medicine that comes to us was mushy or small, and the harvesting technique was not one that would allow regrowth.”

Careless and sometimes illegal harvesting, along with increased land and resource development in Texas, has led to a decline in peyote’s quality and availability. Prices have gone up, and church members worry the cactus, now listed as a vulnerable species, could become endangered.

In 2013, NACNA began researching ways to conserve peyote and its natural habitat.

Lophophora williamsii, more commonly known as peyote, which grows in the wild in southern Texas and Mexico.
Lophophora williamsii, more commonly known as peyote, which grows in the wild in southern Texas and Mexico. VOA

Pan-Native religion

Peyote, or Lophophora williamsii, is a succulent that contains psychoactive alkaloids and only grows in southern Texas and a handful of states in northern Mexico.

Indigenous people have used it ceremonially and medicinally for centuries, as noted by 16th century Spanish missionaries, who condemned it as an evil. Peyote use persisted, however, and by the late 1800s, had spread to present-day Oklahoma, where tribes adapted it to suit their individual spiritual traditions.

In the face of government efforts to ban peyote, peyotists in the early 20th century sought to incorporate as a formal religion. In 1918, an intertribal group established the NAC, which has evolved to include tens of thousands of members across dozens of tribal nations. Members view the church as an important component of healing from historic trauma and reconnecting to tradition.

Peyote was banned in the United States in 1970, but the law was later amended to allow peyote to be used in “bona fide religious ceremonies of the Native American Church.”

Texas allows several peyoteros registered with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency to harvest and sell peyote, but only to card-carrying NAC members with proven Native American ancestry.

Peyote buttons are shown in the yard of a peyote dealer in Rio Grande, Texas, Oct. 12, 2007.
Peyote buttons are shown in the yard of a peyote dealer in Rio Grande, Texas, Oct. 12, 2007. VOA

‘A beautiful ceremony’

Unlike other religious denominations, said Iron Rope, the NAC is not a unified theology.

“Different variations of the ceremony have come into play,” he said. “There are Christian aspects to the NAC today and traditional aspects, as well.”

Wynema Morris, a member of the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska and an NAC member, grew up with an understanding of the sacredness of peyote and the religious etiquette surrounding its use.

“It was my own grandfather, Samuel Thomas Gilpin, who actually received peyote early on from the Winnebagos, a neighboring tribe, and passed it on to his sons, my uncles,” she said.

This 1924 photo by Edward S. Curtis is entitled "Cheyenne Peyote Leader." Courtesy: Library of Congress.
This 1924 photo by Edward S. Curtis is entitled “Cheyenne Peyote Leader.” Courtesy: Library of Congress. VOA

Peyote is much misunderstood and maligned, she said, viewed by many anthropologists through the lens of colonial prejudice.

“I don’t like their use of the word ‘hallucinations,’” she said. “You don’t use peyote to get high. You use it to pray and communicate with God — the same God everyone else talks to.”

She described all-night services of prayer, song and meditation.

“The ceremony is beautiful,” she said. “The extraordinary and the phenomenon are not necessarily unexpected, but they are definitely not precluded.”

Sacred gardens

In 2013, NACNA began looking at ways to conserve and sustain peyote for future generations of indigenous Americans, Mexicans and Canadians.

“It was our intent to eventually have our own land and be able to have our own peyote dealer who could understand our concerns as the Native American Church,” said Iron Rope.

The sun sets over "the 605," acreage in Thompsonville, Texas, which the Indigenous Peyote Conservation purchased in 2018 for the conservation of peyote, a sacrament of the Native American Church.
The sun sets over “the 605,” acreage in Thompsonville, Texas, which the Indigenous Peyote Conservation purchased in 2018 for the conservation of peyote, a sacrament of the Native American Church. VOA

In 2017, NACNA and partner organizations formally launched the Indigenous Peyote Conservation Initiative (IPCI). With funding from the Riverstyx Foundation, a nonprofit that supports research of medicinal uses of psychoactive plants, IPCI purchased 245 hectares (605 acres) of land in Thompsonville, Texas, to serve as “Sacred Peyote Gardens.”

Also Read: Practice What You Preach: Celebrities Should Stand By Their Public Image In Private Domain

It is their hope that by 2021, “the 605” will house a nursery, residential and guest housing, and youth training, all supported by peyote sales.

“It’s about generations to come,” said Iron Rope. “To reconnect them to the land and to the medicine. And that’s the healing process that we’ve been missing.” (VOA)

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Increased Data Entry Workloads Are Pushing USA Doctors Towards Burnout

The types of mistakes that doctor burnout may trigger impact public safety, as well as quality of care

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Data, USA, Doctors
A report by Harvard researchers even categorized physician burnout as "a public health crisis." Pixabay

Technology is changing the healthcare landscape with American doctors now needing to complete more data entry work to account for an array of factors, including the possibility of medical malpractice, according to a Becker Hospital Review report. The extra workload is making it harder for doctors to feel energized and positive while they are on the job. In fact, 13 percent of doctors place the blame for their feelings of burnout directly on their increased data entry workloads. When doctors burn out, they are prone to making mistakes which put patients at risk. So this extra workload, some of which is designed to lower the risk of medical malpractice lawsuits, may ironically be resulting in an uptick in legal issues.

Doctor burnout needs to be addressed

Doctors who are burnt out are twice as likely to make mistakes, which may have severe or even fatal consequences for patients. A report by Harvard researchers even categorized physician burnout as “a public health crisis.” The types of mistakes that doctor burnout may trigger impact public safety, as well as quality of care. Doctors who burn out and make medical errors frequently suffer psychological turmoil, which may extend to suicidal thoughts, and may also end up in court due to medical malpractice lawsuits. Janet, Janet & Suggs asserts that medical malpractice lawsuits are filed to access compensation and justice for victims of medical malpractice. These cases are on the rise in several states, including Florida, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Vermont, based on recent information from the National Practitioner Data Bank. As a consequence of the growing amount of data entry required of doctors, burnout is considered an urgent problem, especially since some malpractice lawsuits can be directly linked to physicians being overworked.

Physician burnout affects everyone

Data, USA, Doctors
Doctors who are burnt out are twice as likely to make mistakes, which may have severe or even fatal consequences for patients. Pixabay

Almost 50 percent of US doctors report feelings of failure, exhaustion, and depression, as a result of their long hours, hard work, and ever-increasing quantity of patients. Extra data entry work is part of the problem, and another issue is that fact that there are so many patients and only 1.1 million physicians. Since Americans need health care that they can trust, physician burnout can unfortunately affect doctors in every practice and field. Skyrocketing medical malpractice lawsuits in some US states tell a story about the impact that long hours and electronic health record (EHR) systems are having on physicians. Doctors don’t always have access to the latest technology while they practice medicine. This means that they may need to spend even more time updating records. Better technology might lead to lower incidences of doctor burnout and medical malpractice lawsuits, but other solutions should also be sought.

Also Read- Tanzania Denies Withholding Information from WHO on Suspected Cases of Ebola

Americans need to be aware of the pressures placed on doctors, but also need to understand that they may be at higher risk of being subjected to medical mistakes as a consequence of physician burnout. The burnout issue among physicians is something that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later, so doctors are able to deliver the best quality of care possible and avoid malpractice lawsuits.