take the medicine to the white man

That night, after showering near the city of Logan, I returned to the valley with Ghent. When I asked him about the tension he felt between him and his mother, I learned it had to do with James Mooney. Gento was 16 when Linda asked Mooney to move in with him. “He stole my brother’s car and wrecked it. I was like, ‘Why is this guy at home?'” said Ghent. “I think it was the story that she liked him.” “It was like going to medicine,” Ghent said. Peyote pulled him inside. The beliefs and lessons he encountered in those rituals made sense to him in ways his Mormonism never understood. “They are literally connected to the physical world that I can see,” he said. “Just as the fact that we are all related leads us to what we know about science.”

In his twenties, he began attending Sweat Lodge several nights a week through the Seven Circles Foundation, which hosts ceremonies for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in the Bay Area. These rituals were led by a Kickapoo/Sack-and-Fox man named Fred Wapepa. Ghent began to feel tension between his traditional ways and his mother’s and Mooney’s New Age interpretations. Mooney’s approach did not align with his NAC traditions, nor did it resemble other indigenous ceremonies to which Ghent was accustomed. Suet Lodge with Wapepa, and later Sun Dance and Peyote ceremonies with other indigenous peoples, he found that each ritual had its own unique set of rituals, which the facilitator could not invent, I realized that I had to learn. “My mother conducts the ceremony the way James taught her,” he said. “She likes to play a psychiatrist, but she’s not trained for it.” and Mooney’s method, participants didn’t have a way to handle everything that came up. Ghent thought the ritual passed down from his ancestors required more humility. “I often saw people asking Fred and other Native elders, ‘What should I do?’ They would say, ‘Why are you asking me? I go to pray. ’ Mooney, on the other hand, had the answer to everything. Mr Ghent also said Mr Mooney seemed to prefer those with money to those without.

It’s unclear how profitable Okulebueja was or still is for its operators. But much of its success apparently owes Mooney’s claim that membership provides legal protection for the use of not only peyote, but other psychoactive substances. “It’s very misleading,” Ghent told me. “People get arrested all the time.” Prior to Mr. Mooney’s first trial, state investigators questioned Oklebueja members and found them puzzled. “When asked if he was registered as a member of an Indian tribe, one said he was registered with the ‘tribe run by James Mooney, who is here today,'” court documents read. there is “Another confessed, ‘I don’t know what that means exactly.’ I have a card that proves I’m a member of the Oklebueha Earthwalk Native American Church.” A self-proclaimed “bona fide healer” was convicted of growing 400 cannabis plants despite showing authorities his ONAC card. The following year, Mooney’s son Michael lost a case in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to recognize marijuana as a sacrament for the NAC.

In 2018, Ghent fell out with Mooney. Ghent said Mooney asked SWCI to send the proceeds through ONAC, but Ghent refused. The Oklebueha Administrative Council, led by Mooney’s wife, then demanded that Linda bar Ghent from ONAC ceremonies, but when she did not comply, Mooney withdrew his support for SWCI, which she founded. closed another Oklebueja branch. “This was the last straw,” Ghent told me. “Yes, my mother, Are you done with all that she did for you? ”

A few years ago, Ghent underwent a DNA test that confirmed her suspicions that she had no Native American ancestry, despite her mother’s claims. (He still believes Mooney is of Indigenous descent.) He knew from the start that he was not part of Indigenous culture, so he never really took it seriously. , and the result did not change his feelings for Peyote or his desire to share it. “Medicines grow in Mother Earth, and Mother Earth supports all people,” he said. When I asked him how he would react to people who were against holding a peyote ceremony, he said: So that’s what I do. ”

james mooney

james mooney

I heard from Ghent that Linda was trying to make up with Mooney, so I asked him to introduce us. In July I returned to Salt Lake City and stayed at her ranch house in nearby Taylorsville, half of the room occupied by a book on Indigenous spirituality. I slept in the basement, which had been converted into four bedrooms, two of which were occupied by recently homeless people who had been referred to her by a local shelter.

Mooney lived with his wife in a duplex in Spanish Fork, 45 minutes south of Linda’s home. Mr. Mooney’s stepdaughter, who is in her 30s, walked out the door and ushered us into the kitchen, decked out in woven baskets and blankets, then to the backyard pergola, where we sat on deck chairs around the fire pit. Mooney came out of the kitchen after us, walking lightly and looking younger than 78. His gray hair fell down to his mid-chest and hung over one shoulder, and he wore button-downs and cargo pants. He looked me up and down and shook my hand. “I want to know About you,” he said with the weight of genuine concern. Then he kept talking for over an hour in long loops of digressions like the solar system without asking any questions.

“Can I ask you a few questions?” I finally interrupted.

He stared at me as if he was considering how far to reveal. “Didn’t you say anything about the CIA?” His question was directed to a sleeping Linda.

“No,” she answered sleepily.

“What I am about to tell you will surprise you,” Mooney said.

In 1982, six years before using peyote for the first time, during a long layover in Los Angeles, he decided to tour the area where he grew up, where he met an old classmate who mentioned an incident Mooney experienced. told me. I don’t remember. That’s when he finds that all his childhood memories have been mysteriously erased (never mind that he’s just returned to his childhood home). . The cause of this amnesia, he elaborated, was that as a child he was drafted into a federal program to train assassins and given the task of killing people all over the world. After being injured in Vietnam, he was “deprogrammed” to forget that such a thing had happened. This story is very similar to the Vietnam War backstory. bone movie franchise.

After the meeting, Mooney sent me excerpts of his autobiographical writings, some of which he said were not intended to be factual. I will try to interview him two more times. When asked why he considers it essential to share peyote with white people, he spoke of the “peace” the drug brought him. “People need this drug, whether Indians, whites, Africans, Asians,” he said, then began an unrelated monologue. In August, he left me a voicemail saying, “I am very much looking forward to seeing you become financially successful.” After that I gave up.

When I asked Linda what she thought of Mooney’s story, she said, “I just accept James as James. Ghent would say he’s a liar. But James isn’t. He’s a visionary, so he’s going to create a vision.”

Peyote ceremonies were held in teepees behind Miriam’s house, a manicured plaster at the foot of the mountain. A man named Nathan Strong Elk, from the Southern Ute Indian tribe, the first Native American I’ve met since I came to Utah, was to lead us through the ceremony, which according to Ghent was done by Linda. It would be traditional, unlike the one led by and Mooney. But Strong Elk, in his early 60s, dressed in a black T-shirt and jeans, was a friend of Mooney and headed his own Oklebueha branch (the only federally recognized member of the tribe that I know of). Headed that branch) ). Should Strong Elk think he’s going to share his NAC traditions with us?Ghent told me that Strong Elk is going to split the profits of the ceremony with Linda. (Strong Elk later denied this, but said he would accept the gift.)

At dusk we formed a line outside the teepee and filed in. A sandy half-moon arced around the inner fireplace, and at the top of this crescent was a bone flute, an eagle-wing fan, and a sacred pipe. were placed on the altar. Strong Elk knelt at the altar, and Ghent stood next to him. They held ceremonies with tobacco offerings and songs, and taught us how to roll tobacco to make corn husk smoke, let the steam float over the body, and apply the smoke to the half moon. rice field. When the peyote tea was passed around, I took a small cupful and put it beside me without drinking it. I’ve seen others scoop peyote, a fine, beige powder, into their palms and wash it down with tea. As the people began to groan and be miserable, the Strong Elk threw the cedars over the fire and sprayed their bodies with smoke.

Between songs, he passed a wooden cane around the teepee, offering each person a chance to speak. I forget how many times the staff went around. People around me seemed to immediately withdraw into themselves and rush forward when I divulged a secret. One woman shared her boyfriend’s betrayal story. Another is sexual assault. When the staff arrived at Miriam, she circled the teepee clockwise and looked us in the eye for half an hour. The effect was ecstatic, the energy turned feverish, and when it was Sophia’s turn she began to wail and convulse. I realized it was a recreation of her daughter’s birth. Immediately everyone in the tipi started screaming.

Was this healing? At the end of the ceremony, as the Strong Elk packed his instruments into the crate, the woman next to me crouched down and reached for the bone flute on the altar. A mighty elk raised her hand to stop her. “I’m asking for your flute,” she said. He explained that women should not touch the bone whistle. “Who said that?” she asked, reaching for her whistle again. The Strong Elk searched her chest and found her bamboo flute and offered it to her, but she refused and pointed, “I want that.” I felt her strong desire to bring her back, to say she had no reason to believe she deserved what she wanted. Then Linda, who had been silent all night, said firmly from behind the teepee, “Stop.” The woman fell on her back on her knees. “She doesn’t know what to do,” she sobbed. Linda crawled up to her, held her in her arms, and rocked her like a child.

I left open the possibility of witnessing a revelation that night. I still believed that white people could learn things from the indigenous ways. However, participants in the Peyote ceremony were not enthusiastic about Aboriginal spiritual traditions. They became deafened by their pain and instead seemed devoted to the idea that they could have whatever they wanted.

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