The Native American Church of North America is estimated to have around 250,000 members, making it the largest organized religion of the Native American peoples. The church's core beliefs are derived from a blend of biblical Christianity and moralistic goals such as honesty, temperance and being faithful to one's family. Religious ceremonies generally center around events like praying for peace, healing, baptisms and birthdays. Such ceremonies often take place at night, and usually consist of singing, dancing, rhythmic music, praying and the consumption of peyote. The use of peyote by the Native American Church is derived from the tradition of the peyote meeting, wherein the plant was used as both a remedy for common ailments and an inspirational tonic.
Research the branches of the Native American Church that are accessible to you. Currently, every state west of the Mississippi has at least one chapter of the Native American Church, but some may not be open to people of different ethnic backgrounds. Many Native American Churches, such as the Oklevueha Native American Church and the the Native American Church of Ghost Dancers, have open online enrollment.
Select the Native American Church that best meets your needs. Consider factors such as accessibility, community culture and how your beliefs align with those of the organization.
Acquire and complete the paperwork required to join your selected church. Some churches, like the Oklevueha Native American Church, require prospective members to study and agree to a code of ethics. Others, such as the the Native American Church of Ghost Dancers, simply require basic biographical information to be provided by intended members.
Join a church based on the appropriate level of membership. Many Native American churches have specific membership categories. For example, The Ghost Dancers have two levels of membership: federally recognized American Indians and another one for non-federally recognized Indians and all others who agree to their code of ethics. The Oklevueha Native American Church has three levels of membership: federally recognized tribal and Oklevueha Independent branch members, one for all people regardless of racial makeup, and another one for military service members and veterans. Members receive a card that they present to prove that they are protected members of a church allowing them to have and use peyote as a Native American Church sacrament. There are fees for the membership cards.
Turn in your completed membership forms, along with any dues required by the specific church you are joining.
Card-carrying members of the Native American Church are allowed to have, use or transport peyote for religious ceremonies. Federal law allows Church members to use peyote as part of their religious practices, however, only 28 states have laws similar to the federal law. The Utah Supreme Court ruled that non-American Indian members of the Church may use peyote as part of their religious practices.
- Council on Spiritual Practices: A Brief History of the Native American Church
- Oklevueha Native American Church: Join
- Ghost Dancers: Membership
- Cornell University Law School: Traditional Indian Religious Use of Peyote
- Center For Substance Abuse Research: Peyote
- Encyclopedia of the Great Plains: Native American Church
- Dave & Les Jacobs/Blend Images/Getty Images