THE LONG HISTORY OF THE BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS (BIA) ATTEMPT TO ERADICATE THE AMERICAN NATIVE CULTURE
In any serious study of Native American Culture, it is important to keep at the forefront of ones mind that the American Native Religion is sustained by it’s ceremonies. The only reason that the indigenous people and their culture survived the atrocities of the last few hundred years is the healing and strengthening influence of these medicines, sacraments and sharing circles. It is clear through the written and oral histories that Peyote was used by most of the indigenous peoples of North and South America. Spiritual ceremonies and medicine people used it extensively because of it’s safety, ease of administration and for its spiritual powers to connect with TRUTH.
Excellently Documented in the Book: Peyote Religion: A History, Chapter 8 – Efforts to Pass a Federal Law by Omer C. Stewart
Efforts to Pass a Federal Law
1. From the beginning, those in charge of the Indian, both those in Washington and those on the reservations (Bureau of Indian Affairs), officials as well as those in the capacity of teachers, Christian religious leaders, and just farmers, blacksmiths, and other supervisors, felt the need for a federal law to prohibit the use of peyote. At first the antipeyotists of Oklahoma had used the 1897 Prohibition Law, adding, without authority, the prohibition of peyote. Uneasy that the 1897 law did not really cover peyote, the Oklahoma antipeyotists in 1899 succeeded in getting passed a territorial law prohibiting the use of the “mescale bean.” An attempt to amend this law so that it referred to “peyote” was roundly defeated in 1907 by the state of Oklahoma. But peyotism seemed so strange, frightening, and downright sinful to the antipeyotists that they continued to forbid its practice and to harass its adherents under the old 1897 law or simply by an order from the Indian agents. We have seen arrests, confiscation of property, fines, jail terms, and verbal abuse on nearly every reservation that dared experiment with the new religion.
2. In 1912 the Board of Indian Commissioners, that group of prestigious citizens appointed to oversee the Bureau of Indian Affairs, began to lobby in earnest for a strong federal law against peyote. In their 1912 annual report they stated: “We are convinced . . . that the Commissioner . . . has not overstated the serious effect of the use of Peyote. The danger of the rapid spread of the habit, increased by its so-called religious associations, makes the need of its early suppression doubly pressing.” Their lobby was directed by Robert D. Hall of the YMCA. On January 12 he sent to the Bureau of Indian Affairs a twenty-three-page report against peyote, including two affidavits by Winnebago Indians denigrating peyotism as well as anti-peyote statements by Revered Walter C. Roe and a white farmer, Charles J. Palmer, of the Winnebago reservation. He also sent reports against peyote from psychologist Professor Roswell P. Angier, Yale University; chemists E. F. Ladd and E. B. Putt, North Dakota Agricultural College; Reverend G. Elmer E. Lindquist, missionary to the Mescalero Apache and later chaplain at Haskell Indian School; and Superintendent A.H. Kneale of the Winnebago Agency and later of the Uintah-Ouray Agency.
3. In March, Father William H. Ketchum, director of the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions, sent to the Bureau of Indian Affairs a nine-page file and memorandum including a request to “rid the Reservations of the Mescal [peyote] evil.”
4. The Society for American Indians was organized in 1912 and soon became the American Indian organization most actively and persistently opposed to peyotism. Composed mostly of Indians, it proposed both federal and state laws to stop the transportation and use of peyote. Also in 1912, the Bureau of Indian Affairs sent to all reservations Circular 598, which asked for information regarding peyote with questions phrased to bring out the worst. Among other questions, it asked: “What is the the moral, mental, and physical effect produced by the use of Peyote?” “Through what agency is this button or bean distributed among the Indians addicted to its use?” “Have any court cases determined whether Peyote is in fact an intoxicant?” Although no answers to this questionnaire came to light, it was probably inquiries such as these which caused reservation peyotists to realize that they may have a fight on their hands if they wished to maintain their religions.
5. In defense of the right to use peyote, Charles Kappler and Charles Merillat, Washington attorneys for the Osage, wrote to the commissioners of Indian affairs on behalf of their clients, saying peyote was not harmful as used by the Osage in religious ceremonies and requesting that they be informed if legislation dealing with peyote were contemplated so that the Osage could be notified, inasmuch as they wished to come to Washington “to give their views of the subject.” Even without notification, on February 12, Osage chiefs Edgar McCarthy and Roman Logan prepared a petition with twenty-one signatures from Osage peyotists which requested assurance from the commissioner that their supply of peyote would be protected, enabling them to continue in the practice of their religion.
6. The next month, attorney Harry L. Keefe of Walthill, Nebraska, wrote to the commissioner on behalf of the Omaha peyotists. Keefe assured the commissioner that the peyote ceremony was a serious religious ritual at which “the Bible is read, prayers are offered,” and that peyotism opposes use of alcohol and helps believers refrain from drinking. He asked that the supply of peyote be allowed to continue “as one of their religious rights,” and he included a letter from a general merchandizer of Macy, Nebraska, G.C. Maryott, who shared his point of view. These letters were meant as an introduction to a delegation of Omaha Indians including Daniel Webster, Harry Lyon, and Parrish Sansouci, who went to Washington and testified in favor of peyotism before Assistant Commissioner Abbott. A similar delegation of Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians visited Washington the following July to express opposition to legislation designed to prohibit free access to peyote for religious purposes. The delegation talked with the congressmen from their areas, who wrote to the Bureau of Indian Affairs on their behalf. Nevertheless, the commissioner remained unconvinced that peyote was harmless. He answered Representative Dick T. Morgan of Oklahoma: “I firmly believe that the use of Peyote is injurious to the health and welfare of the Indians and, there, shall do everything within my power to prevent its use among the Indian.”
7. No bill to outlaw peyote was introduced in 1912. In March, 1913, antipeyotists, through members of Congress, attempted a quiet, roundabout legal maneuver to stop the use of peyote by means of the Indian appropriation bill. Since 1897, with the passage of the Indian Prohibition Law, a provision to finance activities of the Bureau of Indian Affairs specified an amount “for” the suppression of the traffic in intoxicating liquors.” In 1913 both the House of Representatives and the Senate approved an amendment to add “and peyote” following “intoxicating liquors.” The device was not successful, and in June, 1913, on the advice of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, the Senate voted to strike the words “and peyote” from the bill. This attempt failed largely because the congressmen from Oklahoma had been pressured to protect peyote by their many Indian constituents, who instructed them by means of petitions, delegations to Washington, and a multitude of letters. The Osage accumulated and published a pamphlet of documents to establish that peyotism was a good influence on Indian behavior and not harmful to health (McCarthy 1923). The Indians of Oklahoma had not forgotten the experience they had had in the Oklahoma State Legislature in 1907. They had learned then that in a democracy you have a chance to secure your just rights, but you must fight for those rights and you must be heard.
8. The opponents of peyote were not ready to give up, and they, too, knew the rules of the game. Each year they continued to try to include peyote among the narcotics suppressed by the Indian appropriation bill. They also prepared to present new legislation. And they continued to attempt suppression of peyote under the 1897 Indian Prohibition Act, arresting users and suppliers of peyote in the hope that if the arrests were challenged in the courts, a court opinion would support their bluff. The first of several court cases occurred in Wisconsin on April 2, 1914, when the U.S. marshal arrested a Potawatomi Indian, Mitchell Neck, for introducing peyote on the Menominee Indian reservation and giving it to members of the Neconish family. Mitchell Neck was tried under the Indian Prohibition Act of 1897, and the federal judge in Milwaukee declared without qualification that the law clearly meant prohibition against furnishing Indians alcoholic beverages and that the Bureau of Indian Affairs could not legally interfere with the use or shipping of peyote anywhere.
9. On September 11, 1915, a South Dakota grand jury indicted a Sioux Indian, William Red Nest, of Pine Ridge Reservation, “Under the Act of January 30, 1897, for selling and giving intoxicants to Indians.” The case was not immediately brought to trial, and later, in 1917, it was dismissed by the U.S. attorney. While it was in recess, another peyote case came to trial in the U.S. district court in Deadwood, South Dakota. Under the same act, Harry Black Bear of Pine Ridge Reservation was indicted on May 19, 1916, and stood trial on September 7 and 8, 1916. Two news items in theDeadwood Daily Pioneer-Times; a report of the trial by the supervisor in charge, Charles W. Davis, to the Bureau of Indian Affairs; and a letter from Superintendent John R. Brennan have furnished good coverage of the event. The U.S. attorney for South Dakota, R. P. Stewart, was praised for his thorough preparation and skill in arguing the case. The defense of Black Bear was handled, in part, by “a mixed-blood Indian of the Sisseton tribe, who is practicing law at Martin, South Dakota.” Attorney Thomas L. Sloan of the Omaha tribe was present as a witness and as an advisor to the attorneys for the defense. Attorney Stewart introduced chemist E. B. Putt of the North Dakota Agricultural College and Indian Agent Charles E. Shell, who had collaborated with Special Agent “Pussyfoot” Johnson in Oklahoma for several years before he was transferred to California in 1910. Both Putt and Shell had eaten peyote under doctors’ observations and both declared it harmful and dangerous. The jury convicted Black Bear, but upon the defense attorney’s “motion in arrest in judgment” that the 1897 law did not apply, Judge Elliot studied the case, granted the motion, and then Canadian Prohibition Law indicated that it was designed for the control of alcoholic beverages exclusively and could not be extended to peyote, even though Shell and Putt had testified that it was intoxicating.
10. Government officials, church groups, and other antipeyotists had hoped that peyote would be found illegal because it was intoxicating if the question was clearly at issue in a U.S. federal court. The cases of Medicine Neck, William Red Nest, and Harry Blake Bear plainly showed that it would not be. Something more needed to be done.
11. In the meantime, Indians were petitioning harder than ever for the right to use peyote. In February, 1915, it was the Omaha tribe of Nebraska that petitioned Cato Sells, commissioner of Indian affairs, to protect their religious freedom to use peyote in their ceremonies. Fifty-four Omaha Indians signed the petition, and seven sent individual statements from one to five pages long. Hiram Mitchell wrote: “I am one of the first who used the peyote root (about eight years ago). . . . Ever since I have used Peyote I think about God. . . .” Peter Blackbird emphasized his personal reformation: “I drink whiskey. I was bad. I almost murdered a man and they arrested me. And even I almost killed myself with a revolver. Finally, I found out about Peyote and joined the Society. . . .I found that their belief is that this Peyote and the Bible are the same thing.” Sam Gilpin wrote: “It has been seven years since I joined them [the Peyote Society]. Since then I have spent no money for whiskey. I believe this Peyote is good. . . .” Thomas Walker wrote: “This religious use of peyote is on the same line as the white people’s use of the Bible. What we learn from the Bible is true in Peyote.” Stewart Walker reported that peyote helped Indians to stop drinking whiskey and then said: “When we are in a meeting we eat peyote which gives us the spirit of comfort and we would sit there and pray to God and his son Jesus. It would make me think about God, Jesus. . . .Here I am I don’t understand the Bible, still I believe in it.” Edward Cline wrote: “When I eat the peyote I pray to God and I believe the religion we get from the Bible is the same with Peyote.” Simon Hollowell has been an important leader of the Omaha. He wrote: “They gave me a job as councilman and later as judge and then as assessor.” But he was ruined by drink until rehabilitated by peyote. He said: “When we eat peyote we think about it in the Bible. There is a God, Christ, Holy Ghost we pray to.”
12. Pressure such as this from Indian tribes, the failure of the 1897 Indian Prohibition law to apply to peyote, the lack of success in amending the Indian appropriation bill to include peyote—these gave urgency to the antipeyotists in their efforts to persuade the U.S. Congress to enact a law explicitly prohibiting the use of peyote. The first bills were introduced by Representative Harry L. Gandy of South Dakota and Senator W. W. Thompson of Kansas. Following successful efforts by Senator Owen of Oklahoma to block Senate action on the Thompson bill (S. 3526), efforts to procure a 1916 law against peyote focused on the Gandy bill (H.R. 10669), which sought to prohibit “traffic in peyote, including its sale to Indians, introduction into the Country, importation and transportation,” and provided penalties for that trafficking: “imprisonment for more than sixty days and less than one year, or by a fine of not less than $100 nor more than $500, or both.”
13. Support for the Gandy bill was sent from Utah in letters by Mr. and Mrs. R. T. Bonnin; Dr. Henry B. Lloyed, resident physician at Fort Duchesne Indian Agency; Reverend M. J. Hersey, missionary of the Episcopal Church; Governor Spry; and the Utah state chemist, Herman Harms, who produced a five-page report concluding that peyote “produces a demoralizing, harmful, and depraved condition.” Support came also in published reports from the National Indian Association, the Society of American Indians, the National Indian Student Conference, the Lake Mohonk Conference, and the YMCA, Charles M. Siever, M.D., of Holton, Kansas, joined L. E. Sayre, dean of the University of Kansas School of Pharmacy, and A. R. Snyder, superintendent of the Potawatomi Agency, in collecting antipeyote opinions. Assistant commissioner E. B. Merritt of the Bureau of Indian Affairs coordinated the materials against peyote in Washington, and S. M. Brosius of the Indian Rights Association appears to have been the leader of the nongovernmental antipeyote lobby.
14. Indian opposition to the Gandy bill was carried in person to Washington by Omaha Indians Harry Lyon, Silas Wood, and Noah Learning. Francis La Flesche, Omaha Indian ethnologist of the Smithsonian Institution, served as interpreter. The hearing was held on April 1, 1916, before Chief Special Officer Henry A. Larson, an outspoken, active antipeyotist. A twenty-four-page transcript of the hearing was supplied to the Indians and to Larson’s Denver office. The Indians had made a strong statement to the effect that peyotism was a sincere religion which helped them resist liquor.
15. On October 28, the antipeyote forces, over the signature of Larson, sent to 136 superintendents of Indian agencies, schools, hospitals, and the like nationwide a letter of inquiry asking for the most up-to-date information about peyote. Like the 1912 questionnaire, the 1916 letter was worded to elicit pejorative answers.
It read, in part:
16. Please let me have a report from you, immediately, giving the number of Indians addicted to its [peyote’s] use. Who are the leaders? Where do they get their supply from, and how? What is its effect on the users as shown by your own observations and from the reports of employees, missionaries, and others? . . . What is the physical condition of users during and after its use? What is its effect on the moral and social relations? What proportion of the users of peyote use intoxicating liquors?
17. Replies were received from twenty-five reservations, where peyote was used by an estimated six thousand Indians. Most condemned peyote. C.J. Green, superintendent on the Shawnee reservation, wrote: “I am convinced in my own mind that the use of this drug, medicine, dope, or whatever it ought to be called has a weakening influence on both mind and body of the Indians who use it.” W. W. Mace, superintendent on the Cheyenne reservation, wrote: “I am of the opinion that the peyote is completely ruining the Indian people . . . physically, morally, and spiritually.” Willis E. Dunn, superintendent at Red Moon School, Harmon, Oklahoma, wrote: “The effect is a deadening of the senses and the principal users do not seem willing to undertake any mental or physical labor.” Some answers, however, were favorable to peyote, such as that of Reverend J. Roberts, missionary to the Wind River Shoshone, who wrote that his white colleagues, who had attended a peyote meeting, “admired the ritual and . . . saw nothing reprehensible at the meeting.” R. L. Russell, superintendent of the Sac and Fox Sanatorium at Toledo, Iowa, wrote that “the members of the society are among our better Indians and in so far as I know but few of them are given to the use of intoxicating liquors.”
18. The Gandy Bill was not enacted in 1916; consequently, in 1917 it was resubmitted as H. R. 4999. In the Senate the Thompson bill was replaced by Senate Bill 1862, sponsored by Senator H. F. Ashurst of Arizona. Nothing happened to those bills in 1917, but in Utah, Nevada, and Colorado, state laws prohibiting peyote were enacted.
19. In 1918, congressional action against peyote was contained in H. R. 2614, presented by Representative Carl Hayden of Arizona at the request of the Indian Office. Extensive hearings were held before a subcommittee of the Indian Office. Extensive hearings were held before a subcommittee of the House of Representatives (1918a) under the chairmanship of John H. Tillman of Arkansas. Testimony was taken February 21 to 25 and again on March 23, 1918. Numerous documents and reports were submitted, and, together with a transcript of the oral statements of all who wished to be heard, these were published in a document of 193 printed pages. Simply titled Peyote, it includes many of the antipeyote reports submitted to the Bureau of Indian Affairs in earlier years, some dating back to 1909.
20. The defense of peyote was led by James Mooney, who had witnessed his first peyote ceremony in 1891, and was supported by two other ethnologists from the Bureau of American Ethnology of the Smithsonian Institution, Francis La Flesche and Truman Michelson, and by economic botanist William Safford of the Department of Agriculture. Peyotist leaders from the Arapaho, Cheyenne, Comanche, Osage, and Omaha tribes testified at length and were cross-examined. Mooney gave a history of peyote, an analysis of the plant, described the ceremony, and explained the Indian attitude toward peyote. During the years between 1891 and 1918 he had spent months at a rime among the western Plains Indians, particularly on the reservations in Oklahoma, and had been a participant observer in several peyote rituals. The Ghost Dance and peyote had been his chief concerns. He knew well many peyote tribal leaders. He answered patiently and fully all questions put to him.
His explanation for the recent rapid spread of peyote was:
21. The Indians now are largely civilized; they are becoming citizens; they are educated, and they travel about and take an interest in each other. A great many of the young men who have been sent to eastern schools, in a climate damper than the one to which they have been accustomed, come back with weakened lungs, coughs, and hemorrhages, and they are told by their Indian friends at home that if they use the peyote it will relieve the coughs and check the hemorrhages, and they have found that to be true. That is the universal testimony of the Indians. . . . The result is that the young men, not the older uncivilized ones, but the younger, middle-ages, and educated men, have taken up the peyote cult and organized it as a regular religion, beyond what they knew before among the various tribes.
When the morality of the peyotists was challenged, he said:
22. I shall describe the ceremony briefly as conducted among the Kiowas and Comanches, whom I know best. The Indians of the same neighborhood assemble at the home of one of their number—whole families together—late Saturday afternoon. They come in wagons or now even in automobiles. They have their supper together in picnic fashion, the women doing the cooking while the men prepare the peyote tipi and the children play about. Only the men take part in the ceremony, excepting when a sick woman or child is brought in to be prayed for. The men go into the tipi or church, set up for this purpose, about nine o’clock at night. The meeting is opened with prayer, after which four peyotes are handed around to each participant and eaten. After that they take a small drum and rattle, the usual Indian accompaniment to singing, and sing hymns, and at intervals say prayers in which they mention quite frequently the name of Jesus and their Indian word for God, both which names they now know well. They keep that up through the greater part of the night. At intervals there is a break in the ceremony, especially at midnight when they have a sort of baptismal performance. Then they go on with other prayers and other singing until almost daylight when they have ceremonial refreshment of dried meat and fruit, after which they come out; and the women who have been asleep with their children in the other house prepare dinner. They all eat dinner together — their Sunday dinner— and have a sociable time throughout the afternoon, and when it is time in the evening they get their wagons ready and go back to their homes. A camp or settlement will have such a meeting usually about every two weeks. I know they have brought about modifications in some respects since, but I am speaking now of the ceremony as I knew it for a number of years. After having spent the afternoon thus with their friends they go back to their homes and their farms talking about the news and discussing religious questions. I have seen it many times in a number of tribes and there is nothing that can be called an orgy, there is nothing that can be called immoral, and in the tribes that I know, women and children were never present except when they were brought in to be prayed over as sick persons. . . . I understand that in the tribes which have adopted it more recently women take part with the men, the result probably of the spread of education.
23. Frances La Flesche, himself an Omaha Indian, in an extended testimony told the committee that peyote had done much good. Although he had not eaten peyote and was not a member of the peyote religion, he had observed its effect on the people of his tribe and he had nothing but praise for it.
24. It may be a strange thing for me to say, but I cannot talk about peyote without a feeling of gratitude, and I will tell you why. In 1884 the allotment to the Omahas of their lands in severalty was completed, and a few years after the completion of that allotment some of the white neighbors who had dealings with the Indians said to them: “You people are citizens of the United States; therefore you can drink all the whiskey you want”. . . . To justify their drinking they would say, “The white people drink, and why should not we?” Matters began to grow from bad to worse, and it was simply a continuous drunken orgy for several years. After a while white men became afraid to travel the roads on the reservation in the might, and the Indians themselves were afraid to travel on the roads for fear of meeting drunken men. Murders and rape were committed and lawlessness had sway, and the Indians needed help in all this trouble. The agent who had charge of these Indians was aware of the condition, the Indian Office was aware of the condition, and I think the Indian Rights Association and the missionaries were aware of this desperate situation. What did they do? Nothing. They did absolutely nothing. Poor little children became afraid of their mothers because they drank. They became afraid of their fathers, and when they heard them coming home from town they ran into the ravines, into the bushes, so as to avoid getting hurt.
25. But suddenly there came a lull in all this drunkenness and lawlessness. I had a sister who was a physician, and her practice was mostly among the Indians, and she wrote me regularly about the conditions of the Omaha people. She was interested and one day I got a letter from her in which she said: “A strange thing has happened among the Omahas. They have quit drinking, and they have taken a new religion, and members of that new religion say that they will not drink; and the extraordinary part of the thing is that these people pray, and they pray intelligently, they pray to God, they pray to Jesus, and in their prayers they pray for the little ones, and they ask God to bring them up to live sober lives; they ask help of God.”
26. She regarded that as something very strange, because the Indian, although they had missionaries for many years, could not understand the white man’s religion; it was too intricate a thing for them, and they could not understand it. But the teaching of this new religion was something they could understand. In connection with this new religion they used a plant called peyote as a sort of sacrament. This peyote, they said, helped them not only to stop drinking, but it also helped them to think intelligently of God and of their relations to Him. At meetings of this new religion is taught the avoidance of stealing, lying, drunkenness, adultery, assaults, the making of false and evil reports against neighbors. People are taught to be kind and loving to one another and particularly to the little ones.
27. The persons who are opposed to the use of peyote by the Indians in their religion say that its makes them immoral. That has not been my observation. The Indians who have taken the new religion strive to live upright, moral lives, and I think their morality can be favorably compared with that of any community of a like number in this country.
28. When all the testimony for the defense of peyote had been heard from Mooney, La Flesche, Michelson, and Safford and from the lawyers and Indians, and all the testimony against peyote from S. Brosius of the Indian Rights Association, Gertrude Bonnin of the Society of American Indians, General R. H. Pratt of Carlisle Indian School, agency officials, missionaries, teachers, and others under the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the bill to outlaw peyote was passed by the House of Representatives but was rejected in the Senate. Again, the senator from Oklahoma responded to pressure from his Indian constituency and persuaded his colleagues in the Senate to vote against it. Thus ended the most serious attempt to get a federal law explicitly prohibiting the use of peyote. Although a similar law was introduced every year for a number of years, it never had another full hearing until 1937.
29. An unfortunate and bitter schism developed during the 1918 hearing between the Bureau of American Ethnology and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Those testifying for the legislation at the instigation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs accused the ethnologists of encouraging Indians to maintain old, heathenish, unhealthy, uncivilized customs so the scientists write books, take pictures, and thus exploit the Indians with cheap publicity while doing nothing to help them become civilized. General R. H. Pratt, testifying for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, was largely responsible for this. He was an important witness. He had been involved in the civilization and education of Indians from their wild days, he had been in charge of the prisoner-of-war camp in Florida, and he had organized and directed the Carlisle Indian School for twenty-five years. In his own way he was dedicated to the welfare of the Indians. But he had no sympathy for ethnologists. He felt that they were worse than useless; that they were an impediment to the civilization of Indians. He accused Mooney of specific disgusting exploitation and considered all ethnologists like him.
Mooney defended himself and his profession by saying:
30. Now, in regard to an ethnologist never having helped the Indians: as a matter of fact anybody who knows anything about ethnologists knows that it is not true. The Indians look upon ethnologists as their best friends. Ethnologists . . . have always endeavored to help the Indians, as is born out by hundreds of letters from representative Indians showing to what extent they appreciate the work of the ethnologists. We have helped them in Congressional matters and have been delegated to help in matters of allotment; some of us have been sent out to make allotments for them; that is, to help choose the best land, and avoid being victimized by white settlers. We have helped them to civilization in every way; we have helped them in the choice of schools, in the choice of education; we have helped them to raise cattle and to build houses; we have gone into their tepees and shown them now to cook and live decently. All these things have been done by the ethnologists, both men and women. . . .
31. If you want to get at the truth . . . have the Indians come from the tribes that are concerned. An Indian delegate from a sectarian body of an alleged uplift organization is not a delegate for his tribe. The tribes have councils elected by themselves, and they elect those council men year after year to come back here and appear for them. . . . The men are there; you can send for them.
As for the specific accusation against him, he said: “I denounce that as an absolute falsehood.”
32. After the hearings were over, Mooney went again to the Kiowa reservation, but the commissioner of Indian affairs requested the director of the Smithsonian Institution to recall him because he was “interfering” with the administration of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Specifically, Mooney had participated in peyote ceremonies and had consulted with and encouraged peyotists to incorporate their religion under the laws of Oklahoma as the Native American Church. To the shame of the Bureau of American Ethnology and the Smithsonian Institution, Mooney was recalled and was never again allowed to return to Oklahoma to continue his study of peyotists. He died a few years later of a heart attack.
33. The Indians who had defended peyotism in the hearings of 1918 had a vivid education in American government. They had heard the case against peyote argued by their powerful white adversaries, and they had defended it with the help of white scholars from the Smithsonian before the high court of the U.S. House of Representatives. It had been a tough fight, and this time they had won a close victory. But they were aware that the fight was not over, and they realized that in order to prevail again, they must learn to conform to the other religious institutions of the country. They had said their religious ceremony was the same kind of thing as the Presbyterian, the Mormon, the Catholic, or any other church. But in the eye of the world it was not the same because it was not organized. It needed a name and needed to be known by that name; it needed a set of rules, officers, stated responsibilities; it needed to be “incorporated.” In August 1918, at El Reno, Oklahoma, peyotists from Oklahoma met to establish a peyote church.
34. The idea was not entirely new. The first record of an organized church of peyotism is so slight as to be negligible. It was mentioned in a U.S. court hearing in March, 1914, as “a regularly organized association among the Indians called the Peyote Society, also known as the Union Church Society of which [the witness] had been a priest for seven years” (Safford 1915:306). Almost nothing more is known of the Union Church, and it was probably not legally incorporated. The second peyote church to be organized, the first to be legally incorporated, was stimulated by Johnathan Koshiway (Sac and Fox of Kansas) when, at the age of twenty-eight, he was living on the Oto reservation with his wife’s people.
Koshiway described the founding of the First Born Church of Christ on December 8, 1914, for Slotkin:
35. We were having trouble way back as long as I remember. I thought there must be a way to defend our religion; so a few leaders went to a lawyer [Henry S. Johnston of Perry, Oklahoma]. He helped us to write up the Articles of Incorporation; so we got a charter; the name came from the Bible, Hebrs. 12:28. . . . I was sent to Washington, D.C., for a hearing on the peyote bill. . . . 1914 . . . I was told to come home [and help] the Indians to organize a church.
Koshiway also described the beginning of the First Born Church of Christ to La Barre, who wrote (1938: 168):
36. First of all, he [Koshiway] consulted White Horn, leader of the native peyote rite, and gained his support. Koshiway generously states that White Horn was the co-founder of the Church of the First Born, but the fact appears to be that the latter’s role consisted in giving the official approval of the older established peyote cult. Koshiway also visited many white ministers to get their advice on organization. . . . Koshiway went to a lawyer in Perry, Oklahoma. H. F. Johnson [sic] and sought legal advice. . . . The articles of incorporation were signed by Johnathan Koshiway and four hundred [sic] and ten other names.
37. An official copy of the articles of incorporation indicates that the first named officer was “Charley Whitehorn,” designated “Deacon,” followed by the ten directors, starting with Johnathan Koshiway. The certificate verifying the meeting and election of directors is signed by “Charley White Horn, Pastor, Presiding Officer.”
The statement of purpose was strongly Christian:
38. The purposes for which this Corporation is formed are to give legal corporate entity to an association of persons having for their purpose and ideal the founding and establishment of a church organization embodying the conception found in the King James Version of the Holy Bible in Ephesians, fourth chapter, verses 5 and 6, as follows: “One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, One God and Father of all.” And Hebrews, twelfth chapter, verse 23, “One Church of the Firstborn . . . and to Evangelize and spread Scriptural Holiness over all lands and to all people.”
39. Probably for diplomatic reasons peyote is nowhere mentioned in the articles of incorporation. And it is interesting that tobacco was specifically omitted from the ceremony. Not all Oto peyotists supported the First Born Church, objecting to the prohibition of tobacco.
Louis McDonald talked about this troublesome issue:
40. I have seen that the big problem arises about the smoking among the Oto tribe. . . . During my school days, I learned that on the line of Christianity smoke was filthiness or foulness. We may call it on the grounds of filthiness that smoke was disapproved; but still I cannot be convinced that the old Indian natural tobacco would be wrong; I want to say this, I am not a smoker. . . . you don’t see me carrying tobacco of any kind. The only time I smoke is during the ordinance of the Peyote meeting, and I have never heard among the average preacher today condemn the natural Indian leaf tobacco.
41. The Church of the First Born had not sought a wider following or larger jurisdiction than the Oto tribe. The group that met in El Reno in August, 1918 to establish the Native American Church were representative of most Oklahoma peyotists and were ambitious to include all Oklahoma peyotists in their church. They did not equivocate about the use of the word peyote, realizing that this was the issue and that it must be openly acknowledged.
The articles of incorporation of the Native American Church, signed October 10, 1918, are as follows:
42. KNOW ALL MEN BY THESE PRESENT, That we, Mack Haag, and Sidney White Crane of the Cheyenne Tribe of Indians, Charles W. Daily, George Pipestem and Charles E. Moore, members of the Otoe Tribe of Indians, Frank Eagle of the Ponca Tribe of Indians, Wilbur Peawa and Mam Sookwat, members of the Comanche Tribe of Indians, Kiowa Charley of the Kiowa Tribe of Indians, and Apache Ben of the [Kiowa-] Apache Tribe of Indians, all residents of the State of Oklahoma, do hereby associate ourselves together to form a religious and benevolent association under the laws of the State of Oklahoma, and do hereby certify:
The name of this incorporation shall be and is “NATIVE AMERICAN CHURCH.”
The purpose for which this corporation is formed is to foster and promote the religious belief of the several tribes of Indians in the State of Oklahoma, in the Christian religion with the practice of the Peyote Sacrament as commonly understood and used among the adherents of this religion in the several tribes of Indians in the State of Oklahoma, and to teach the Christian religion with morality, sobriety, industry, kindly charity and right living and to cultivate a spirit of self-respect and brotherly union among the members of the Native Race of Indians, including therein the various Indian tribes in the State of Oklahoma.
It is the purpose of this organization to establish one central church to be known as “Native American Church” with branch churches subject to the jurisdiction to the General Church to be organized in each of the Indian tribes in the State of Oklahoma.
The principal church with its seat of government and principal place of business is hereby established at El Reno, Canadian County, Oklahoma; each of the subordinate churches to establish by vote of the members the location of the various churches and branch churches in the territory of each of the Indian tribes in the State of Oklahoma, respectively.
The term for which this organization shall exist is perpetual.
The principal churches shall be governed by trustees, the same to be called “The General Council of the Church” to consist of two members to be elected by the local Church established in each Indian tribe in the State of Oklahoma that may desire to become affiliated with this church and for the time being, shall consist of Mack Haag, and Sidney White Crane of the Cheyenne Tribe of Indians; Charley W. Dailey and Geo. Pipestem of the Otoe Tribe of Indians; Frank Eagle and Louis McDonald of the Ponca Tribe of Indians; Wilbur Peawa and Mam Sookwat of the Comanche Tribe of Indians; Kiowa Charley and Delos Lone Wolf of the Kiowa Tribe of Indians; Apache Ben and Tennyson Berry of the [Kiowa-] Apache Tribe of Indians, being fourteen trustees, which for the time being, shall constitute the Board of Trustees or General Council of the Main Church. These trustees to hold office as such until the local Church affiliated with this church of any of the tribes of Indians shall select and name their successors.
This corporation shall have no capital stock but it is authorized to levy for the purpose of the support of the Main Church of assessments to be determined by the General Council upon the individual members of the church in the various tribes.
The General Council composed of the trustees nominated herein shall, within thirty days after receiving Certificates of Incorporation, from the Secretary of State of the State of Oklahoma meet at El Reno, Oklahoma, and adopt, a Constitution and By-Laws for the government and control of the church.
At the meeting of the General Council called in pursuance of ARTICLE VIII hereof shall, at such meeting elect a President of the General Council, a Vice-President, and a Secretary and Treasurer of this organization who shall hold office until their successors are elected under the provisions of the Constitution and By-Laws to be adopted by the General Council.
The first officers of the Central Church were Frank Eagle (Ponca), president; Mack Haag (Cheyenne), vice-president; George Pipestem (Oto), secretary; and Louis McDonald (Ponca), treasurer. For the first twenty-five years about thirty people from seven to eight tribes occupied all elected offices and the five or six appointed positions. As well as the member of the original general council, they included Alfred Wilson (Cheyenne), James W. Waldo (Kiowa), Ned E. Bruce (Kiowa), Edgar McCarthy (Osage), Frank W. Cayou (Omaha), and McKinley Eagle (Ponca). Annual meetings were specified and some were probably held.
43. The only record of an early meeting available to me is that of 1925, which included a report for 1923 and 1924. Most of those attending the “convention” were from Oklahoma, and all elected to office were Oklahoma residents. Previously unreported Oklahoma tribes to attend were the Yuchi, the Shawnee, the Sac and Fox of Oklahoma, the Caddo, and the Wichita. In 1924, Mac Haag had been elected president and Alfred Wilson was appointed a special delegate to Washington, D.C., to work with the Oklahoma Congressman to defeat the special appropriation with which the antipeyotists hoped to combat peyote distribution and also be on guard against peyote prohibition laws. By that time, nine bills had been introduced into Congress. In 1925, President Haag reported that there were twelve hundred to fifteen hundred peyotists. Visitors from outside Oklahoma were welcomed. Orin Curry, a Ute Indian from the Uintah-Ouray Reservation in eastern Utah, probably traveled the greatest distance. Utah’s 1917 law against peyote had led to fines and jail terms, and he asked for help. Two Omaha Indians from Nebraska declared peyotism had helped them conquer alcohol. One claimed peyote could not be harmful because he had passed the Army physical examination although he had used peyote for years. Clearly, the Native American Church was becoming a truly pan-Indian organization and the legal forum to deal with antipeyotism.
44. Undoubtedly, incorporation of the Native American Church helped to prevent national legislation against peyote and strengthened the status of peyote in Oklahoma and elsewhere. No serious attempt was made again to prohibit peyote in Oklahoma. Also, since incorporation in one State carries over into all others, unless a State specifically outlaws the organization, the Native American Church became legally incorporated in all States which had not legally prohibited it. In 1918, only Utah, Colorado, and Nevada had done so.
45. As can be expected, the antipeyotists were not idle. Having failed to get a national prohibition law against peyote in 1918, they redoubled their efforts to try again. In 1919, South Dakota Representative H. L. Gandy reintroduced his original antipeyote bill, again without success. The Bureau of Indian Affairs sent out another questionnaire to all reservations, Indian schools, hospitals, and so on, asking for information on all aspects of peyotism, and published the results in a strongly antipeyote pamphlet, entitled “Peyote” (1922), by Dr. Robert E. L. Newberne, chief medical supervisor. Among the data was the information that 13,345 American Indians were considered to active participants in the peyote religion, or 4 percent of the total of 316,008 Indians at that time on the records of the Bureau. Interest in peyote had been stimulated by the Congressional hearings, and the first edition of a thousand copies of the pamphlet was exhausted in the first few months after publication, so two thousand more were printed. It was reprinted again in 1925 by Haskell Indian School and widely distributed to individuals, libraries, and Indian agencies until 1934, when it was withdrawn from circulation by Commissioner John Collier. Another antipeyote document, Bulletin 21 (U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs 1923), containing some of the same material, was also widely distributed by the bureau.
46. In 1921 and 1922, Congressman Hayden again introduced bills which would have outlawed peyote, but neither passed. In 1923 no bill was passed, but that year the antipeyotists managed to amend the Indian appropriation bill to designate twenty-five thousand dollars “for the suppression of traffic in intoxicating liquors and deleterious drugs, including peyote, among Indians.” Similar wording was retained in appropriation bills for Indian affairs through 1934. Of this Slotkin wrote (1953:53): “Even though Congress had specifically rejected any prohibition of peyote during the years 1910-1922, the Bureau went counter to Congress and continued to enforce its antipeyotist regulations. . . . the antiPeyote Rider passed by Congress during the years 1923-1934 was, from a legal point of view, simply a bluff.”
47. In 1924, Senator Charles Curtis, himself a Kaw Indian from Kansas, introduced the bill to prohibit peyote. In 1926 it was Montana representative S. Leavitt who introduced the antipeyote bill. And so the effort continued.
48. But if the antipeyotists were unsuccessful in passing an antipeyote law in the U.S. Congress, they met with more success in state legislatures. As has been pointed out, Utah, Colorado and Nevada had passed state laws against peyote in 1917. The fourth state to prohibit peyote was Kansas, whose Senator E. H. Thompson had sponsored federal legislation to prohibit peyote in 1916. Arvel R. Snyder, superintendent of the Prairie Potowatomi Agency at Mayetta, was mainly responsible for the Kansas legislation. Rabidly opposed to peyote, he had answered the Bureau of Indian Affairs questionnaire, Circular 1522 (U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs 1919), as follows: “The peyote preachers and leaders, William Skishkee and Oliver Marshall, both of whom are degenerates and apparently worthless beings, make it their business to supply our Indians with the buttons.” As soon as the Kansas law was enacted, he arrested a number of peyotists. Twenty-six had served jail terms by January, 1924.
49. In 1923, Arizona, Montana, and North and South Dakota passed laws prohibiting the use of peyote. Since Arizona senator Ashurst and Arizona representative Hayden had both introduced federal legislation to prohibit peyote, it seems safe to assume that it was they who stimulated the Arizona state legislation. There were no peyote users at the time in Arizona. In Montana it was Superintendent C. H. Asbury who spearheaded the legislation with inspiration and assistance from Congressman Gandy of South Dakota, the commissioner of Indian Affairs, the Indian Rights Association, Newberne’s pamphlet, and the National Indian Association. In less than two months, antipeyote legislation passed the Montana legislature unanimously. No Indian testified.
50. The legislation in North and South Dakota was enlightened by Gertrude Bonnin and Congressman Gandy.
Of the South Dakota law we have Sioux Judge Randall’s account:
51. Mrs. Bonnin . . . took special study of this practice [peyotism] and after gathering all the facts about it, she took it before [State] Senator Johnson and there they discussed the whole thing and there was twenty delegates of other reservations went and I was present there . . . The matter being reached the South Dakota legislature, they enacted this peyote law that the State has now in the book.
52. Mrs. Bonnin had assembled twenty antipeyotist Sioux to speak for the Indians of South Dakota, avoiding members of the South Dakota Native American Church, who had no idea an antipeyote law was pending. No Indian spoke in defense of peyote.
53. In 1925 a bill to amend the state narcotic code of Iowa by adding “peyote or the mescale button” to the list of prohibited substances passed the Iowa legislature and was signed into law because of the efforts of Superintendent F. T. Mann, of the Winnebago Agency in Nebraska, just across the Missouri River from Sioux City, Iowa. He wrote to the commissioner of Indian affairs that the bill had been “introduced by the two representatives from Sioux City, at my suggestion, and its passage urged and worked for by Dr. Bried [of the Sac and Fox Sanatorium] and myself.”
54. Antipeyotists were not so successful in Nebraska. Actively organized there for some time, they had attempted to insert into the Nebraska state constitution a ban against peyote during the constitutional convention in 1920. The antipeyote proposal was introduced by H. L. Keefe at the request of C. D. Munro, superintendent of the Winnebago Agency, and E. J. Bost, superintendent of the Omaha Agency. But H. L. Keefe was not unfavorably disposed toward peyote. It was he who had written the strong, favorable letter of introduction for the delegation of Omaha peyotists protesting possible peyote legislation in Washington, D.C., in 1912. He introduced the antipeyote legislation before the Nebraska constitutional convention, but he also invited Omaha and Winnebago Indians to testify before the committee considering peyote in the Nebraska legislature, and the result was that it was omitted from the constitution.
55. When F. T. Mann replaced Superintendent Munro, he was determined to carry on the fight for antipeyote legislation, and a hearing took place in 1921. Hiram Chase, Omaha peyotist and attorney, testified and arranged for other peyotists to do so. This time the antipeyote bill did not reach the floor. Nebraska has never had an antipeyote bill.
56. In 1929 peyote was outlawed in New Mexico and Wyoming. The New Mexico law was requested by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to support the Taos antipeyotists. In Wyoming it was again through the efforts of the indefatigable Superintendent C. H. Asbury, who had stimulated the legislation in Montana and Nevada. He argued that an antipeyote law in Wyoming would help enforcement of the law in Montana. In 1922, Idaho passed an antipeyote law.
57. The state laws were largely futile. They did little to impede the spread of peyotism. States and their courts had little jurisdiction on Indian reservations. From the beginning, the U.S. governments has considered Indians as sovereign people to be dealt with only as one nation to another, as it would deal with, say, Great Britain. States could not engage in legal transactions on Indian land, and as long as Indians practiced peyote on their reservations, and no federal law or tribal law intervened, they were free to do so. The states could and did interfere to some extent with the transportation of peyote. By federal regulation, products outlawed by a state should not be dispatched into that state by mail, express, or freight. The shippers are required by law to withhold such materials. But the state laws passed in the twenties were almost impossible to enforce and were mostly an irritant and motivation for the game of getting around state laws. The largest shippers—Aguilares Mercantile Co., L. Villegos and Co., and Wormser Bros.—whose primary income came from Oklahoma, in which peyote was legal, did take chances shipping into states with laws against it. They sent peyote to Oklahoma, and peyotists from states where it was illegal traveled to Oklahoma to buy peyote or received packages from friends in Oklahoma, where the post offices and express offices were not on guard against illegal products. And of course peyotists traveled in increasing numbers to Laredo themselves to bring back peyote. With automobiles and better roads, buying directly from the dealers became the popular thing to do. George Morgan (1976: 84-85) reported that in 1927, Joe Herrara cut and dried thirty-eight thousand peyote buttons near Oilton and took them to Oklahoma to sell so that while there he could participate in peyote rituals. Joe said that he sold the buttons for two dollars per thousand.
58. Occasionally, however, Indians carrying peyote were arrested. In 1933 in northeastern Wyoming a local sheriff, collaborating with federal Indian police and the superintendent of the Northern Cheyenne reservation, intercepted a trailer full of peyote and arrested the five Northern Cheyenne Indians who were bringing the peyote from Laredo to Montana for the use of the Northern Cheyenne. One thousand pounds of peyote were destroyed, and the Indians were put in jail, tried, convicted, and placed on probation. Usually, however, peyote was brought to its destination without mishap.
59. State laws probably discouraged the halfhearted, but at the same time they challenged the devout, and peyotism continued to flourish. The peyotists responded to the proliferation of state laws by incorporating more state churches. This was not legally necessary, inasmuch as Oklahoma incorporation covered other states as well. Still, peyotists outside Oklahoma thought it might help, and, besides, they felt the need for more organization. The first tribe to incorporate a peyote church beyond Oklahoma was the Winnebago of Nebraska. In 1921, the Peyote Church of Christ was incorporated, and charter was granted to Winnebago, Thurston County, Nebraska. The charter stated: “We recognize all people who worship God and follow Christ as members of the one true church. . . . We believe in the sacrament and the sacramental bread and wine, but in so much as the use of the same is forbidden to Indians, we of the people who cannot obtain or use the same have adopted the use of the bread as Peyote and water as wine.” There were thirty-eight signatures on the charter, among them those of Albert Hensley and Jesse Clay, which gave representation to both the Cross Fire and the Half Moon sects. Oliver La Mere and Jesse Clay were two of the early presidents. In 1922 the Winnebago charter was amended to change the name to the Native American Church of Winnebago, Nebraska.
60. The Sioux peyotists were not satisfied with one incorporated church, but felt one in each county would be better. The first was the Native American’s Church of Allen, South Dakota, incorporated on October 5, 1922. It was followed by the Native American Church of Charles Mix County on November 28, 1922; the Native American Church of St. Charles, Gregory County, on February 20, 1924; the Native American Church of Rosebud on July 26, 1924; the Native American Church of South Dakota on November 28, 1924; the Native American Church of Washabough County on March 14, 1928; the Native American Church of St. Francis on January 10, 1935; the Native American Church of Buffalo County on July 18, 1935; the Central Council of the Native American Church of South Dakota on October 8, 1935; the Native American Church of Porcupine on March 20, 1936; the Native American Church of Sisseton on January 14, 1939; and the Native American Church of Norris on April 14, 1939.
61. The word peyote is not mentioned in any of articles of incorporation or charters for the churches in South Dakota. This may have been wise in 1922, when a torrent of antipeyote publicity directed at South Dakota filled the nation’s press. A two-column headline in the Washington, D.C., Evening Star of June 19, 1922, read: “Peyote Eating New Drug Craze Among Indians of South Dakota.” The article went on to say: “Eaten by the Indians under any circumstances, it has demoralizing effects, mentally and morally as well as physically. To complicate the situation in South Dakota, the peyote habit has been coupled with religious ceremonials which combine ancient Indian superstitions with Christian rites, and the craze is now in full sway. . . .”
62. Most of the articles of incorporation of peyotists in South Dakota were on printed forms provided by the state for the incorporation of churches. When words were added, as in the case of the Native American Church of Charles Mix County, Christian ideas were stressed: “The purpose of this corporation is to foster and promote the Christian beliefs among the Sioux Indians . . . and to teach among them the scriptures, morality, charity, right living, to cultivate the spirit of self-respect, brotherly love and union among all American Indians. . . .” The right to conduct funerals and maintain cemeteries was covered under the provision to “buy, sell, own and care for property for religious purposes.”
When the Central Council was incorporated in 1935, it equated itself with other Christian churches when it stated:
63. This is to certify that the Central Council of the Native American Church of South Dakota has hereby granted to William Black Bear of Allen, South Dakota, the privilege and authority to take up the cause of Religious Extension work within this State as well as in other States where the Indian Tribes reside. He is also granted permission to preach the gospel, baptize, solemnize marriages, and administer the Holy Sacrament of the Church.
64. The Montana peyotists incorporated themselves March 26, 1925, bringing together two tribes that had been historic enemies. The organization was carried out by nine Crow and three Northern Cheyenne peyotists with the assistance of attorney C. C. Guin, who signed the original articles of incorporation as a witness to the fingerprint signatures of the Indians. Two of the incorporators, who also became trustees, were Thomas Stewart (Crow) and Thaddeus Redwater (Northern Cheyenne), who had attended Carlisle. The other Crow incorporators and trustees were Childs, Big Sheep, Holman Ceasley, Erick Bird Above, Austin Stray Calf, Arnold Costa, Harry Whiteman, and Frank Bethune. Thomas Stewart was the first president and Holman Ceasley was the first secretary. The model for the Native American Church of Montana was that of Oklahoma, but as from the charters of South Dakota, the word peyote was omitted.
65. The election of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932 not only brought a “New Deal” to the American people generally but also brought a “new deal” especially to the American Indians. Harold L. Ickes became Roosevelt’s secretary of the interior, under whom operated the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Ickes was a liberal activist, interested in civil liberties, conservation, reform and Indians. He had been involved in the American Indian Defense Association and there had met John Collier, who was its executive secretary. The American Indian Defense Association was an organization formed in the twenties to protect the Pueblo Indians from being deprived of much of their land and water rights without fair compensation. It went on to take up the Indians’ cause in many areas: in protecting their religious freedom to engage in their native rituals, their oil and gas royalties, and in a multitude of other cases wherein white Americans were trying to gull Indians one way or another in order to make profitable deals for themselves. Made up of private citizens interested in progressive causes, the association had been opposed to many of the policies of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Ickes was aware of Collier’s dedication to the Indians and his formidable record of achievement in their behalf, and Collier was his choice for commissioner of Indian affairs. He was sworn in as Indian commissioner of Indian affairs. He was sworn in as Indian commissioner on April 21, 1933.
66. Collier and Ickes in charge meant a completely new philosopher for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Heretofore, the view of the bureau had been that the Indians were somewhat less intelligent than white people and their culture had little, if any, value. The purpose of the bureau had been to encourage Indians to forego everything Indian as soon as possible and strive to be like white people. Collier, on the other hand, felt that in many ways Indian culture was superior to American culture and that white Americans could learn much that was good from the Indians.
He felt that the very presence of Indian culture was a great asset to American society:
67. He said that the government had the duty to bring education and modern scientific knowledge within the reach of every Indian. And, at the same time, the government should reawaken in the soul of the Indian not only pride in being an Indian, but hope for the future as an Indian. It had the obligation to preserve the Indian’s love and ardor toward the rich values of Indian life as expressed in their arts, rituals, and cooperative institutions. [Philip 1977: 118]
68. Such a radically different point of view was bound to bring many conflicts. Tenured superintendents, teachers, missionaries, whites generally, and even the Indians themselves, schooled in the old attitude, had difficulty accepting the new philosophy. Nevertheless, Collier brought much-needed assistance, reform, and incentive.
69. The new attitude toward peyote was expressed in Bureau Circular 2970, (Jan. 3, 1934), entitled Indian Religious Freedom and Indian Culture, which said, in part: “No interference with Indian religious life or ceremonial expression will hereafter be tolerated.” It would seem that the troubles of peyotists were now over for all time. However, this was not to be. Although John Collier was an experienced administrator, he was also a reformer, and sometimes one of his reforms collided with another. For instance, while he strongly encouraged tribes to maintain their ancient practices in order to govern themselves, he also insisted that they practice religious tolerance, which was not always consistent with ancient Indian culture. At Taos, what was seen as religious persecution of peyotists by the tribal government led to another attempt to secure a federal law against peyote.
70. The trouble between Taos peyotists and other members of Taos Pueblo, usually the governing body, which had led the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1927 to ask for a New Mexico state law against peyote, continued in the 1930s.
Elsie Clews Parsons (1936: 67) wrote:
71. In recent years the peyote people have been let alone by the hierarchy. . . . But the hierarchy has not relented as the decision of a Council meeting in December, 1931, made quite clear. The blankets and shawls that were confiscated ten years ago had not been distributed among the officers as is usual with confiscated property but had been kept in a bundle and handed on from Governor to Governor. One of the peyote men, their arch fighter, had wanted to appeal the matter to the agent, but the others were afraid. Now, however, a council was called to settle the affair. As the retiring Governor was brother of one of the peyote chiefs, it was probably thought that now the controversy could be amicably settled. At any rate, the peyote men went in a conciliatory spirit to talk peaceably with their “brothers” and “fathers,” and offered to pay a fine of $10 if the property was returned and the council would give them a signed agreement to molest them no more. The Council refused to give this assurance and insisted on a payment of $25 a piece for the return of the blankets and shawls. The meeting adjourned without coming to any agreement.
71. In 1934, peyotist Geronimo (“Star Road”) Gomez was elected lieutenant governor, and at least one other peyotist, Telesfor (usually called Teles) Romero, was elected to the council. Feeling in a stronger than usual position in Pueblo affairs, the peyotists seized the opportunity to hold a peyote meeting openly in the Pueblo. They also returned the shawls and blankets which had been confiscated to their rightful owners and paid only a part of the find that had been assessed. Mabel Dodge Luhan, a wealthy New Yorker who in 1920 had adopted Taos as her home and had married a Taos Indian and one-time peyotist, sent a frantic telegram to her old friend, the newly appointed Indian commissioner:
72. In defiance of Council of former Governors and war captains, the present Governor and war captains set up Peyote tepee on reservation Saturday night which was first time any officers ever did this.
73. Three delegates were sent to this meeting to crash and were not allowed in. Instead they were arrested for alleged drunkenness by war captain and thrown in jail there. There is now overt opposition in Pueblo to war captain and Governor who is his tool. . . .
74. Long heated meeting last night. Another follows tonight. Fearing a showdown ending in violence . . . . I think well to advise you. . . . We wish to avoid catastrophe.
75. This report resulted in the peyotists being removed from office and the lieutenant governor being put in jail because he had returned the shawls and blankets without collecting the complete fines. The peyotists appealed to the Native American Church, chartered in the State of Oklahoma, appeal to you for advice regarding the religious freedom of Indians in the State of New Mexico.
76. We the members of the Native American Church, chartered in the State of Oklahoma, appeal to you for advice regarding the religious freedom of Indians in the State of New Mexico.
77. A group of Pueblo Indians affiliated with the Native American Church have been imposed upon by the Governor and Counsel of the Taos Pueblos. They have forbidden the use of their religious sacrament, the earthly herb, peyote. Their meetings have been disturbed by drunks. The governing body has fined and jailed the religious participants rather than the disturbers.
78. A band of worshippers, who are affiliated members of our organization have appealed to the mother church for aid in their predicament of not being able to worship God as they see fit. In compliance with their request we had two special conferences to discuss the merits of the case. Rather than go to a big deal of expense and undesiring notoriety the members in conference decided to appeal to you, because you have authority to inform all tribes coming under your guidance, the constitutional rights both civil and religious of all Indians to any state on tribal or federal matter, concerning their individual rights.
79. Therefore the Native American Church in special conference respectfully request that the Honorable Commissioner of Indian Affairs inform the Governor and Counsel of the Taos Pueblo Indians the constitutional rights of all Pueblos under their control the right to worship God as they see fit. We sincerely believe this will settle the case and any further disturbances of non-adherents of this faith.
80. We the special committee appointed by the Native American Church to present this appeal and to discuss the case, if you so desire, request your immediate attention to this matter. We know it will be appreciated by the many members of this faith not only in the State of Oklahoma, but other States where Indians hold services according to the Rituals of the Unwritten Code as given to them by their Maker the Creator of the Universe, the Great Spirit, God Almighty (Signed) The Committee, Francis M. Cayou (Omaha), Edward McCarty (Osage).
Collier wired the Indian office in New Mexico for an explanation and received the following from Superintendent C. E. Faris:
81. For a number of years, may be a decade, there has been shifted from one governor to another some Navajo blankets and other items of value held in trust for security of a fine imposed on the peyote group of the earlier day. Star Roads as lieutenant-governor and the ex-governor [Santiago Martinez] returned these blankets to their rightful owners and paid only in part the fines assessed. When the present acting officials asked Mr. Roads for payment of the balance he became angry and acted in a manner that the council felt warranted his confinement until he could meet them with respect for the council. He was confined for overnight and was visited by a delegation of officials who in short time convinced him of the error of his position and settlement made and all concerned were seemingly happy on our visit there with Dr. Lasswell.
82. . . . I have not yet been able to see Mr. Gomez, but I am advised that he is satisfied with the settlement made and there seems no reason for any further consideration of that particular and long-standing difficulty. It is better that we appreciate the efforts of the council and the governing officials of the laatter and of the calendar year in their successful efforts at a satisfactory solution of a matter that had been more or less troublesome for a decade.
83. But trouble was not over at Taos, for all of Faris’s reassuring words. The peyotists continued to try to hold meetings, and the antipeyotists continued to oppose them. One of the contributing reasons for dissension was the interference into Pueblo affairs of Mabel Dodge Luhan. Since 1920, this rich and sophisticated lady had lived in the shadow of Taos pueblo in a large two-story adobe house which she had had built to harmonize with the idyllic northern New Mexico landscape. She had attracted some of the artistic and intellectual talents of the world to visit her there, and some, notably D. H. Lawrence, stayed to live and work in the area. In 1920, John Collier had come and had there made his first personal contacts with Taos Indians. Mabel Dodge had married a Taos Indian, Tony Luhan, and in a sense one might say she felt that not only he belonged to her, but all of Taos belonged to her. They were “her” people. Certainly she had a proprietary attitude toward them, and what happened at Taos concerned her deeply.
84. Mabel Dodge Luhan hated peyote. Her attitude began at a party in her New York apartment in 1914, before she ever came to Taos. Peyote was supplied and a pseudo-peyote ritual was directed by ethnologist M. R. Harrington, who had learned about it in Oklahoma among the Delaware. Mabel Dodge was shocked by the ritual, was revolted by the taste of peyote, and was terrified when a guest became disoriented. As she reported it, the group first feared for their sanity and then for their lives. A condition of marriage to Tony Luhan had been that he, a leading peyotist, give it up forever.
85. Whether or not her negative influence was responsible for the conflict between the antipeyotists and the peyotists from the time she arrived in Taos, I cannot say. However, in the thirties there is no doubt that she influenced the tribal officers to take action against the peyotists and that she supported the punishment of peyotists through her attorney, Henry A. Kiker.
86. In February, 1936, the governor of Taos reported: “Wednesday night [February 12, 1936] Governor and Officers, also War Chief met and decided to place all attending the Peyote party in Taos County jail for disturbance and using Peyote, which is against the rule of the Pueblo.” The arrests were made at the home of Telesfor Romero just before a peyote meeting was about to begin. Taos officer Antonio Mirabel came to the Romero home looking for a psychotic boy name Alvino, who had shown himself naked and had escaped on the way to the hospital. Upon discovery of the sand altar made in preparation for the peyote meeting, Mirabel asked about it, then threatened John Reyno with his pistol when Reyno refused to turn over his supply of peyote. Fifteen peyotists were arrested that night and were tried before chief judge and arresting officer, the same Antonio Mirabel, in the presence of the governor and pueblo council. Miraabel said he was lenient in fining everyone $100 for using peyote, since the state law authorized a fine of $200. He fined Geronimo Gomez and additional $125 because he argued with him. Three, John Marquez, Joe Bernal, and Don Marquez, refused to pay fines and were sent to a Santa Fe jail. No one paid money, but signed over land, which was parceled out to Mirabel and other pueblo officials.
87. After the break-up of the peyote meeting and the fines and imprisonment that followed, the peyotists again sought help from Collier, who came to New Mexico for a personal interview with the Taos governor. He told him and his council that he wanted to respect their institutions but that they must respect freedom of conscience. Under his influence, Mirabel and Gomez came to an agreement whereby the peyotists were allowed to continue to hold meetings in the pueblo but were cautioned to use peyote judiciously, to make no disturbance, and not to proselyte.
88. But the trouble did not end. In the National Archives (Record Group 75), the peyote file for Taos for 1936 contains more than two hundred pages of correspondence, minutes, legal opinions, statements and reports. Among them, an official of the United Pueblo Agency wrote Collier that there were “outside influences” on Antonio Mirabel,
89. One of my best friends who has made a splendid officer, but I feel that his sense of loyalty to his own political faction at Taos has overridden his sense of duty to the Indian administration. . . . In the past three or four months [he] has changed his whole outlook. I refer to the influence of Tony Luhan and his wife, Mabel Luhan. Through some investigation made by my department I find that Tony Mirabel visits the Luhan house daily, and if he does not visit then Mabel Luhan sends for him.
90. The peyotists sought aid from the Native American Church and its legal advisors, Dr. Sophie D. Aberle, the new superintendent of the United Pueblo Agency, and under fire partly because she was a woman and partly because she was much disliked by Mabel Luhan, forwarded to Washington a petition from the Taos Council of the Native American Church and seventy-five church members. After stating support for Superintendent Aberle, the petition complained: “The wife of Tony Luhan, Mabel Dodge Luhan [is] doing a lot of trouble-making in our village. . . . It is only Tony Mirabel and Tony Luhan who have objection to Dr. Aberle’s work. The reason is because Dr. Aberle won’t do what Mabel Dodge Luhan wants her to do.” The interference of Mrs. Luhan was a matter for discussion in the Pueblo council on June 6: “Antonio Luhan explained that his wife . . . never interfered in matters concerning Taos Pueblo or any other Indian matters unless she was asked to do so and it was for the good of the Indians. . . .” Finally, in a memo to Ickes, Collier referred to the trouble Mrs. Luhan was causing when he reported that his agreement with the governor of Taos and the peyotists was blocked because “an outside influence” was controlling the pueblo governor: “This outside influence is Mrs. Luhan, who, in turn, is being advised by a lawyer named Kiker.”
91. On September 30, Secretary Ickes ordered the governor of Taos to restore to the peyotists the land taken in lieu of cash to pay the fines imposed in February. The governor’s telegram of refusal said, “We have no knowledge of any Native American Church,” and he could not allow the peyote religion because it would be in violation of a New Mexico law. Ickes answered, “It is a matter of regret to me the officers of an Indian Pueblo, led by two white individuals, should grievous wrong to fellow Indians.”
92. In 1937 there was a new spirit of conciliation in the pueblo of Taos. Following the election in January, the governor reaffirmed the intention of the pueblo council to stop the use of peyote in the pueblo. However, evidence of arrests or other restrictive measures is lacking, while records indicate that the peyotists recovered their land and unobtrusively carried on their peyote meetings. That year a daughter of a well-known peyotist was married to the son of the lieutenant governor by a Catholic priest in a regular Catholic church wedding ceremony, and feelings about peyote one or another did not color this happy event. As a matter of fact, peyote factionalism had moved from Taos to the national capitol.
93. In 1936, Mabel Dodge Luhan was no longer a friend of John Collier. She not only sought a federal law to prohibit use of peyote, but also through such a law she sought Collier’s removal from office. A report to Superintendent Aberle from Geronimo Gomez, based on someone listening at the window of the council rooms at Taos, stated:
94. John D. Concho had a letter and he said: “I am reading a paper which I got from Judge Kiker, saying that we wish to go ahead and fight this Native American Church. . . .” He read the letter which had been written by Judge Kiker to President Roosevelt, saying that they wanted to get rid of Secretary Ickes and have John Collier, Dr. Aberle, Judge Hanna, and Mr. Brophy put out of the Indian Service because they all had gone over to the side of the people of the Native American Church. . . .
In a letter to Ickes, Mrs. Luhan stated her feelings:
95. Do you really mean that you are defending self-government when you take the side of a few drug addicts against the efforts of the pueblo officers to eradicate the usage of the peyote drug? These officers are trying to deliver the Indians from their bondage to narcotic and you try to encourage them in their use of it. The Catholic Church does not recognize the “Native American Church.” Would you stand for hashish, cocaine, or morphine and defend them on the grounds of religious liberty?”
96. Through the efforts of Mrs. Luhan and Judge Kiker, on February 8, 1937, Senate bill 1399 was submitted by Senator Dennis Chavez of New Mexico. Its purpose was “to prohibit the interstate transportation of anhalonium, commonly known as peyote.” The opening move by Senator Chavez had been made in August, 1936, when he arranged a hearing on affairs at Taos under provisions of a Senate resolution of the Seventieth (1927) and Seventy-first (1928) Congresses to make a Survey of Conditions of Indians in the United States (1937). The published hearings on the Taos matter required about 150 pages. The publication begins with a letter from Mabel Dodge Luhan to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, dated August 20, 1936. The first fifty pages deal with peyote at Taos, both pro and con. A twenty-page bibliography follows. The remainder is mostly a complete reprinting of documents and testimonials published in support of the Hayden bill of 1918. A few reprints of Bureau of Indian Affairs reports for 1935 and 1936 are included. Senators Hayden and Ashurst of Arizona were still in Congress and, of course, supported the bill.
97. Collier brought expert opinion to defeat the bill. By 1937 there was a wealth of expert knowledge available. Weston La Barre was deep in data for his Ph.D. thesis at Yale, which was published as The Peyote Cult (1938). Vicenzo Petrullo’s Ph.D. thesis for the University of Pennsylvania had been published as The Diabolic Root. H. Scudder Mekeel, bureau field representative in charge of applied anthropology, personally wrote to Professor Frank Boas of Columbia for authority. At the request of Senator Elmer Thomas, of Oklahoma, chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, the office of the secretary of the interior prepared a report on the Chavez bill. Widely distributed later by the bureau as “Documents on Peyote” (1937), it recommended “that S. 1399 be not enacted.” In addition to a covering letter from Charles West, acting secretary of the interior, it included statements against S. 1399 from anthropologists Franz Boas, A.L. Kroeber, Ales Hrdlicka, John F. Harrington, M.R. Harrington, Weston La Barre, Vincenza Petrullo, and Elna Smith. Opinions against the bill were also contributed by economic botanist Richard E. Schultes of Harvard and Osage tribal chief Fred Lookout. Peyotists on reservations from Oklahoma to Montana were notified of the pending legislation and were ready to go to Washington to testify against the bill. Officials of the Native American Church in Oklahoma sent wires and letters offering their services should they be needed. The great antipeyote publicity campaigns which had accompanied peyote legislation from 1916 to 1926 were not much in evidence in 1937. The Chavez bill, S. 1399, quietly disappeared.
98. Only once more was there an attempt to get a federal law against peyote. On December 13, 1963, Representative Dante B. Fascelli of Florida introduced H.R. 9488 to add peyote to the federal law regulating sale, and so on, of marijuana. Within weeks, congressmen from many states were alerted to oppose the bill. Officials of the Native American Church obtained the support of Commissioner Philleo Nash to oppose the Fascell bill if it should come up for hearings. However, no hearings were held, and H.R. 9488 died quietly in the House Committee on Ways and Means, to which it had been referred for study. Thus ended the congressional battles against peyote, both those led by the Bureau of Indian Affairs bound to fit Indians into the white man’s mold with some traditional form of Christianity, and those led by a few patrons of Indians bound to keep Indians in the mold of their ancient fathers, rejecting all innovations of the present day.
Book: Peyote Religion: A History, Chapter 8 – Efforts to Pass a Federal Law by Omer C. StewartH