The Oklevueha Native American Church
The original Native American Church was founded in 1880 by Quanah Parker. He was known for advocating the benefits of peyote before he died… The Native American Church presently has approximately 250,000 members from fifty federally recognized tribes.The Oklevueha Native American Church got their name by “[the] Seminole word ‘Oklevueha’ meaning an unstoppable river that flows in and around Oklevueha Band of Seminole Indian’s Reservation in Orange Springs, Florida. This area was first named Harjo Town, which was founded by the famed Seminole Medicine Man and War Chief Osceola.”(“Eagle Quetzal Condor” 1). The The Oklevueha Native American Church’s official sacrament is Peyote and is the only thing used for Peyote ceremonies. It is a non addictive drug and it is almost impossible to overdose while using it which makes it ideal for religious settings. Other independent branches often use plants and other naturally occurring substances to heal and bless the body physically, mentally, and spiritually. Some common ways of using peyote in religious ceremonies is; Fresh, Dried (Grinded into a Powder), Made into a Tea and / or Tea mixed with Powder that will make it into a paste. For their gods, they worship mother earth and father sky.one of their key beliefs is, “Our eternal soul “earth walks’ between the Father’s realm of Fire (Sun) and Air, and the Mother’s domain of Water and Earth. WE are made of these elements. They nourish us body, mind and soul.”
The Oklevueha Native American Church incorporates ceremonies from several Native American tribes and cultures. The Oklevueha Native American Church primary believes in creating a safe space in order to practice many different types of ceremonies throughout one’s lifetime.
The first type of ceremony is the “blessing way” ceremony, adopted by the Hopi tribe, where expectant mothers can celebrate the new life of their unborn child in a relaxed and healing environment. The ceremony takes place by the expectant mother coming together with friends and family to better prepare herself for the mental ups and downs associated with giving birth and early motherhood. During the ceremony, “… the mother-to-be can gain the confidence, power and love she needs to move forward in her new role with peace and understanding”(Talley 1). The ceremony also acts as a form of self purification where all physical and emotional toxins are released from the body to prevent passing unnecessary stress or bad health onto the unborn child (resulting in the child being pure/wholly when born”). The result of the ceremony leaves the mother highly in tune with her natural instincts to serve as an inner guide. This inner guide ensures the mother has a successful rest of her pregnancy leading up to giving birth and eases the transition mentally into the first few months of motherhood. The Oklevueha Native American Church does not require you to be officially Native American to be a part of a “Blessed Way Ceremony.”
Another ceremony that the The Oklevueha Native American Church practices is the Sacred Prayer Pipe “Chanupa” Ceremony, which was adopted by Lakota tribes. The purpose of this ceremony is to strengthen communal ties among tribal members and remind members to recognize and appreciate the power of prayer. George Beterstein, Elder Medicine Man, CEO of Oklevueha Native American Church of California, describes what his experience is like with the Sacred Prayer Pipe;
“I don’t know how it works. I have an altar of the Chanunpa, the Tobacco Sacrament, the Sacred Inipi, the Grandfather Medicine and the Wachumita Medicine. It is all run by Chanunpa. If I start thinking about any of it, worrying, fretting, pondering, considering…whatever the form of distraction I throw in my path to make my life harder and more difficult and more lonely and more isolated…it shows me my empty mind and returns me to the path it has offered me. I have learned from it that reassurance is not Medicine. The Medicine shines a light on the truth and the only thing to do is follow it. If we stumble, lurch, cry, scream, laugh, curse, smile, frown or walk it with enormous self-possession and dignity, it is ours to walk. The Medicine has no comment on or interest in our ideas, opinions and preferences, our thoughts or our feelings (Beterstein 2).”
Like in other ceremonies, the individual partaking in the ceremony references being told or led by an inner guide.
The Oklevueha Native American Church adopted the “Potlatch Ceremony” (meaning to give away) from west coast tribes. The ceremony is traditionally held in the winter months, which primarily focuses on the tribe’s lavish display of cultural traditions and wealth (“The Potlatch Ceremony”). Another ceremony that the Oklevueha Native American Church practices is the
“Holy Anointing by the Layering on of Hands Ceremony” The Oklevueha Native American Church describes the sensation received from this practice as; “Holy anointing is a ceremonial practice designed to restore your sense of being fully alive as a soul in a physical body. This ceremony frees you from feeling ‘stuck’ in an energy grid produced by repetitive tasks and programmed reactions into a new, expanded matrix which accesses the greater web of life force energy”…the ceremony is executed through the use of crystals, stones, oils, physical touch, plant/ flower essence and holy water (Elise 1). The medicine person in charge can personalize a unique set of oils to help specific medical conditions via aromatherapy.
Another ceremony that wishes good fortune is the “Marriage Blanket Ceremony”, here a newly married couple can appear in public and vow their love for physical and spiritual eternity. Several other ceremonies The Oklevueha Native American Church shares in common with the Lakota’s are; The Sacred ghost dance/ Spirit dance ceremony, a great celebration once a millennium to express thanks to the gods. The sun dance ceremony, proves adults are able to lead a hard, dedicated life proving sacrifice. The sweat lodge ceremony encourages members to partake in original tribe traditions to uphold for future generations. During this ceremony, there is a large emphasis on biological mother and father figures. The vision quest ceremony involves being guided by a spirit guide to determine life’s purpose before your physical body dies. The Oklevueha Native American Church has also run into some legal consequences regarding their choice in religious sacraments. For example, in the article “Oklevueha Native American Church of Hawaii” by Tiernan Kaneit states how at the Oklevueha Native American Church of Hawaii (an independent branch location of Oklevueha Native American Church) discovered cannabis was not a drug protected under their religious freedom as protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The Act is supposed to “shield a person from any considerable hindrance of any religious exercise,” hence why, Michael Rex “ raging Bear” Mooney (founder and leader of Oklevueha Native American Church of Hawaii Inc.) was under the assumption that cannabis was an allowed sacrament. Mooney claimed that their religion’s primary sacrament was peyote, but due to the traditional beliefs of being one with the earth, continued to allow all naturally occurring drugs and substances as accepted sacraments. The claimed use for peyote during ceremonies is to “enhance spiritual awareness or even to occasion to direct spirit of the divine.” Since peyote is the declared sacrament, the district court ruled that the Church cannot distribute or offer cannabis at ceremonies or rituals due to the state’s legislation yet to legalize it statewide. The district court determined that cutting the use of cannabis and only using Peyote permits (which is declared legal for religious use) since the nonuse of cannabis is not “religiously and substantially burdening” as it outlines in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Also, according to “The Native American Church: Ancient Tradition and Modern Controversy,” Siobhán Barry-Bratcher states,
“In 1929, the Narcotic Farms Act included peyote on its list of habit-forming drugs despite insistence from the Native American community that the plant was not addictive. The interest in consciousness-altering drugs during the cultural revolution of the late 1960s led to the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. This legislation banned peyote by giving it a Schedule 1 classification. While the Native American Church received an exemption when the Controlled Substances Act went into effect, not all states had laws in place that conformed with federal legislation protecting the ceremonial use of peyote by Native Americans.”
- Barry-Bratcher, Siobhán. “The Native American Church: Ancient Tradition and Modern Controversy.” Medium, Medium, 8 May 2019, https://medium.com/@siobhanbarry/the-native-american-church-ancient-tradition-and-modern-controversy-ca2ed9bf879f.
- Beterstein, George. Sacred Prayer Pipe (Casuse and/or Chanupa)) Ceremony|The Oklevueha Native American Church, https://nativeamericanchurches.org/sacred-prayer-pipe-casuse-andor-chanupa-ceremony/.
- “Eagle Quetzal Condor.” Eagle Quetzal Condor, 30 May 2019, http://eaglequetzalcondor.com/oklevueha-native-american-church/.
- Elise, Tracy. Holy Anointing by the Laying of Hands Ceremony|The Oklevueha Native American Church, https://nativeamericanchurches.org/holy-anointing-ceremony-and-the-laying-on-of-hands-ceremony/.
- Labate, Beatriz. “The ‘Legality’ of Ayahuasca Churches Under the Oklevueha Native American Church.” Bia Labate, 22 Mar. 2018, https://www.bialabate.net/news/the-legality-of-ayahuasca-churches-under-the-oklevueha-native-american-church.
- Kane, Tiernan. “Oklevueha Native American Church of Hawaii.” Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy , vol 40, no. 3, June 2017, pp. 793-808. EBSCOhost , https://medium.com/@siobhanbarry/the-native-american-church-ancient-tradition-and-modern-controversy-ca2ed9bf879f
- Native American Church Spirituality & Beliefs|Oklevueha Native American Church, https://nativeamericanchurches.org/spirituality/.
- Oklevuhea Native American Church, https://nativeamericanchurches.org/.
- Oklevueha Native American Church Religious Survival|Oklevueha Native American Church, https://nativeamericanchurches.org/survival-of/.
- ONAC Sacrament – Peyote| The Oklevueha Native American Church, https://nativeamericanchurches.org/onac-sacrament-peyote/.
- Sink, Mindy. “Religion Journal; Peyote, Indian Religion And the Issue of Exclusivity.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 14 Aug. 2004, https://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/14/us/religion-journal-peyote-indian-religion-and-the-issue-of-exclusivity.html.
- Talley, Rachel ‘Eagle Dove’. Blessing Way |, https://nativeamericanchurches.org/blessing-way/.
- THE GREEN CORN CEREMONY| The Oklevueha Native American Church, https://nativeamericanchurches.org/the-green-corn-ceremony/.
- The Potlatch Ceremony (To Give Away)| The Oklevueha Native American Church, https://nativeamericanchurches.org/the-potlatch-ceremony-to-give-away/.
- Wesley, Doug. The Sweat Lodge (Amacheekee/Inipi) Ceremony|The Oklevueha Native American Church,