Navajo Nation president signs peyote bill into law

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) – Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. has signed a law that makes it legal for Navajos to transport and possess peyote for ceremonial purposes on Navajo Nation land.

The new tribal law also allows peyote that Navajo police confiscate from people who have it illegally to be given to the Native American Church to be used for approved ceremonies.

Shirley said the legislation is a way to preserve the Navajo way of life, preserve the herb and preserve the Navajos as a people.

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Officials attending Friday’s signing and an all-night ceremony in a sacred teepee near the Navajo Nation Museum stressed the important of peyote in ceremonies. They also stressed the importance of using it properly.

The Navajo Tribal Council approved the measure July 22 on a vote of 63-1 during the council’s summer session.

Co-sponsor Wallace Charley of Shiprock, N.M., said Sunday the legislation made tribal law more specific about the use and transport of peyote, as well as changed the procedure for disposing of confiscated peyote.

”There are more and more misuses of peyote than any other time,” Charley said. ”This legislation gives more control to the use and transport of the sacrament.”

Peyote is used for meditation and spiritual ties both in the Native American Church and other ceremonies, Charley said.

Ceremonial peyote is not smoked, but rather ingested as a powder, he said.

Smoking peyote is not allowed under the new law.

”It will be an unceremonial use,” Charley said.

Peyote is classified by U.S. law as a controlled substance and it is illegal to possess in the United States, but the use of it by the Native American Church is protected under the Fourteenth Amendment.

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Associated Press, via the Casper Star-Tribune, USA
July 31, 2005

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