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Pot and Pretendians, By Ruth Hopkins

I’ve heard it dozens of times: folks justify the appropriation of Native culture and the theft of sacred rites and ceremonies by saying there’s no injury; that it’s essentially harmless, or even beneficial.

Wrong. How does redface, be it physical, mental or spiritual, aside from making a mockery of us Originals, further colonial conquest and genocide? Let me count the ways…

I could point you in the direction of studies that show how appropriation harms Native youth psychologically, provide you will a million personal stories from Native people who experience microagressions on a daily basis, or paint the big picture for you, linking hipster headdresses, race based mascots and for-profit sweat lodges to the persistent systemic oppression of Native peoples from Columbus’s arrival to the present, but for now, let me give you one contemporary example.

Recently, officers in Sonoma County, California, confiscated marijuana plants from the Oklevueha Native American Church. Members of the church say the plants are sacred and used ceremonially. They’ve since taken the matter to Federal Court, suing Sonoma County, its Sheriff, and the Governor of California, claiming they’ve been discriminated against under the Constitution of the state of California, and alleging rights violations under the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. The group is seeking an injunction and praying for damages as a remedy.

Oklevueha members assert that marijuana is integral to their sacraments, just like peyote.

There’s just one problem. It’s not. While I’m not a member of the Native American Church, I practice Dakota/Lakota spirituality, and marijuana has not, nor has it ever been, used as a part of ceremony. While some species of hemp have always grown in the western hemisphere, the marijuana people smoke today is native to Asia. It’s propagation in the Americas is relatively new. I also know a few individuals who put weed in their canupa (sacred pipe), and were shunned for it.

I spoke to a few Native people who frequent Native American Church ceremonies, and they told me the same thing one of the most well-known Lakota medicine men in the United States told me: marijuana is not a part of our sacrament.

Now don’t misinterpret me here. Marijuana is medicinal, as are many plants utilized by Indigenous people. However, claiming its part of our spirituality to avoid catching a case threatens the rights of actual Natives who deserve protection under the American Indian Religious Freedom Act.

Yes, I said ‘actual Natives.’ You see, the Oklevueha Native American Church, established in April 1997 in Gunnison, Utah, doesn’t appear legitimate. On their website, they offer membership to those who “desire to be blessed by having access to Native American Ceremonies and Medicines (such as Peyote, San Pedro, Ayahuasca and Cannabis) without legal interference.” The leader of this church is James Warren ‘Flaming Eagle’ Mooney. He claims to be Seminole. If you research Mr. Mooney online, you’ll uncover a veritable maze of a pretendian who is desperately trying to prove he’s Native. He claims to be a direct descendant of Osceola, but data on his family tree is sketchy. So is his basic assertion of Native lineage. He’s not enrolled in a state or federally recognized Tribe. As you scroll, be prepared to wade through a swamp ofanecdotalevidence and hearsay from unqualified sources offered up as proof of his ancestry and the right to call himself “Medicine Man Emeritus.” By the way, let me clue you in on a little secret: I don’t know a single wicasa wakan (medicine man) who calls himself that. Be suspicious of anyone who is a self-proclaimed medicine man or “shaman.” Yet ‘Flaming Eagle’ would have us believe he was commanded by a Lakota to “take this medicine to the whiteman.”

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Oldest Native American Church to James Mooney: Marijuana Is Not Our Sacrament
The following is an official statement from the Native American Church in regards to Flaming Eagle Mooney and Oklevueha.

“The Native American Church of South Dakota (NACSD), is the oldest Native American Church within Lakota Territory and the State of South Dakota incorporated October 5, 1922. The NACSD is based within the boundaries of the Pine Ridge Agency – Oglala Sioux Tribe and serves its membership throughout the State and Lakota Territory.

As the oldest organization existing from Lakota ancestral linage and serving its Lakota members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe; the Native American Church of South Dakota presents this position:

— The Native American Church of South Dakota has no knowledge or existence of the Oklevueha Lakota Sioux Nation Native American Church;— The Native American Church of South Dakota does not know James Warren Mooney;

— The Native American Church of South Dakota stands firm with the Fool Bull family against the misrepresentation of the Fool Bull Family name by the Oklevueha organization’s;

— The Native American Church of South Dakota does not condone the use of Marijuana as a sacrament of the Native American Church. The Native American Church of South Dakota’s cultural values & teachings along with its mission statement recognized the Holy Peyote as the only Sacrament of the Native American Church. The preservation of our Sacrament Peyote is standing true to what has been handed down to us as a Native American Church. It is a deep disrespect to Lakota NAC leadership/Elders/Wisdom Keepers who fought and died for our NAC ceremonial way of life to consider marijuana as a sacrament of the Native American Church.

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A Crow song I’m trying to get down, if I remember the translation correctly, it means, “on this day bring us good luck. I’m praying to the Creator at this time, bring us good fortune. I’m singing to you, Holy Medicine.” I had it down and I wanted to sing it for Shinali but I lost it when I started singing it. I would like to practice it more, I need to bring my gourd and drum to jam with my relatives.

If you having a bad day, hopefully this song cheers you up.

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Whitehawk and Crowe - Wi`kiwa`m Ahsin (Tipi Rock) (by glonnie15)

a performance of Native American Church songs or Peyote ceremonial songs.

I often hear misunderstanding, even stereotypes of Natives and the use of peyote. I personally organised, set, and attended these meetings. My step-father was heavily involved in peyote meetings, sundance and sweat ceremonies.

I usually do not speak about things like this, I chose to do, share this with the tumblr natives, that know these things.