Native American Church members fight harassment by authorities

“Peyote Drummer,” photogravure, Edward Sheriff Curtis, 1927.

“Peyote Drummer,” photogravure, Edward Sheriff Curtis, 1927.

Editor's note: The Oklevueha Native American Church, or ONAC, is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the legal freedom to observe Native American spiritual traditions. Some of these involve sacramental or medicinal use of various plants: Peyote, Ayahuasca, San Pedro, Cannabis, Mushrooms and others. I am an ONAC member. While law varies state by state, those who grow or use these plants--Native Americans, or otherwise--risk arrest, property confiscation, legal harassment, and police abuse. One of ONAC's members in California was recently arrested, and his property confiscated, shortly after local law enforcement were notified they have no right to do these things. ONAC is holding a press conference today to announce their response. —Xeni Jardin

The-Peyote-Ceremony-and-the-Native-American-Church (1)

There will be a press conference today, 2 PM at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek Hotel in Santa Rosa California, at 170 Railroad Street.

Noted Constitutional and Civil Rights Lawyer Matt Pappas will be announcing lawsuits and other legal actions against a number of Law Enforcement and County officials and entities.

These legal actions have become necessary because of repeated abuses of power and evidence of collusion by these groups to deprive members of the Native American Church of their Native Ceremonies and Sacraments by raiding their sacred grounds, confiscating their objects of worship and destroying the sacraments and medicines.

All of these items are protected under the 1st, 4th and 14th Amendments to the US Constitution and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000. These protections have repeatedly been upheld by numerous court cases around the country including the US Supreme Court, US District Courts and State Supreme Courts.

The Pappas Law Group was previously instrumental in recent actions exposing corruption in the Palm Springs City Government and the Santa Ana Police Departments.

James Mooney, the Senior Medicine Person and founder of Oklevueha Native American Church (many of whose members have been targeted recently) said that "I believe this is a conspiratorial effort by these bureaucrats and law enforcement people to seize valuable property and eventually confiscate lands so they can sell them and keep the money. They are arresting some of our members with full knowledge that our members have a right to possess and use these sacraments and medicines as part of their religious practice."  

"We have presented these officials with evidence and documentation that what they are doing is in violation of a number of laws,” Mooney said, “But they continue in these actions and must be called to account." 

At today's press conference, Mr. Pappas (representing Oklevueha NAC) will be presenting information about the legal actions that are being filed.

We encourage everyone who supports and defends Constitutional rights and especially those who are appalled by this attack on people because of their religion to show up in support at the press conference and make their voices (or signs) heard.

We hope they will support this regardless of their own religion because history has proved repeatedly, if we don't stand up for the other person's rights, someone will soon be knocking on our door to deprive us of ours.

For more information about Oklevueha NAC, please contact onacpr@gmail.com or go to nativeamericanchurches.org.

A Cheyenne peyote leader. Photo: Edward Curtis.