Why Support Peyote Conservation?
Peyote is a sacrament and sacred medicine that is fundamental to the way of life of hundreds of thousands of indigenous people of North America.
Significant measures must be taken to protect and conserve Peyote, or it may become extinct within 20 years.
Did you Know?
Where your donation Goes
In 2017, the Indigenous Peyote Conservation Initiative (IPCI) was formed. It then purchased 605 acres of land in the South Texas Peyote Gardens to protect the future of their medicine. The mission of IPCI is to empower Indigenous communities to reconnect with, regenerate, and conserve their sacred Peyote medicine.
The mission of IPCI is to empower Indigenous communities to reconnect with, regenerate, and conserve their sacred Peyote medicine.
IPCI holds this land as a spiritual homesite that serves as a hub for:
- Cultural and conservation activities
Education for Native American Church members
- Nurseries for replanting in the native habitat
- Strengthening relationships with local ranchers
- Space for culturally appropriate access to ecologically and spiritually harvested medicine.
Significant measures must be taken to protect and conserve Peyote, or it may become extinct within 20 years. The Native American Church strongly recommends that people outside of their religion refrain from consuming Peyote to preserve its utilization by and for Indigenous peoples.
NAC members have been fighting for over a hundred years for their rights to the Peyote sacrament. They feel a deep sense of responsibility for the survival and preservation of their traditional way of worship with this sacred medicine.
We have an opportunity to support and help sustain the spiritual practices of NAC members for generations to come while avoiding the negative consequences of post-colonial activity through properly addressing biological and cultural conservation.
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What is Peyote?
Peyote or “Lophophora williamsii” is a small slow-growing cactus without spines, that grows primarily in the Chihuahua deserts and Tamaulipan thorn scrubs of Mexico and southernmost Texas.
Peyote is different from most other cactus species because it produces the psychoactive alkaloid “mescaline,” a substance with potent medicinal and psychospiritual properties.
Peyote has been used for over 10,000 years by Indigenous communities such as the Wixáritari (Huichol), Yaqui, Cora, Raramuri (Tarahumara), Comanche, Diné, and many others. Currently, over 300,000 Native Americans in the United States rely on it as a cornerstone medicine for their way of life. It is a medicine that supports the healing of addiction, depression, spiritual connection, postcolonial trauma, and healthy identity.
Several compounding factors simultaneously increase pressure on the already limited wild peyote populations.
The biggest threat
to Peyote in the US ARE the loss of native habitat and improper harvesting
Peyote’s natural habitat in the Chihuahuan Desert is covered in a dense thorny brush.
To make the land available for livestock production, agriculture, commercial and residential development, it’s common practice to root plow the soil, which severs the cactus’ roots and suppresses their regrowth ability.
FOR CATTLE GRAZING, ENERGY INDUSTRY, AGRICULTURE, AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT.
Once land has
The destruction of Peyote’s natural habitat amounts to a direct threat on the largest pan-tribal indigenous religion in the United States.
Today, over 300,000 Native American Church (NAC) members from dozens of tribes use Peyote as a sacrament and medicine. Some NAC members say preserving the land where Peyote grows is essential for the Native American religion from extinction.
harvesting practices have posed a danger to the survival of the peyote species and the survival of indigenous cultures.
Currently, there are strict rules on
who can harvest Peyote, and a
lack of proper harvesting practices.
All land in the Peyote Gardens is privately owned.
Only licensed middlemen called “Peyoteros” can legally harvest the cactus and then sell it to NAC members.
However, the Peyoteros are not required to preserve the natural habitat or ensure proper harvesting techniques that contribute to the long-term sustainability of Peyote.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed Peyote as a “vulnerable” species, but this does not make the species a priority for protection and conservation.
Psychedelic decriminalization in the US has failed to consider how the inclusion of a declining species
like Peyote could also contribute to the decline of indigenous cultures.
Since the 1970s, the psychedelic revolution has sparked westerner’s awareness of the transformations and spiritual experiences facilitated by Peyote, starting an industry of entheogenic tourism.
In more recent years, Peyote has been increasing in popularity for its potential in improving symptoms related to conditions like
- Substance use disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Under the American Indian Religious Freedom Act Amendments of 1994, NAC members can legally ingest Peyote for bonafide ceremonial purposes. However, dozens of cities across the US are decriminalizing Peyote and other psychedelic plant medicines to make them accessible to everyone. These efforts fail to respect the importance of the protection afforded by AIRFA to the Peyote Way of Life.
Today, Native American Peyote Practitioners have a responsibility to their future generations. They worry about the impact the decriminalization movement could have on the diminishing populations of wild Peyote. They believe our attention should be on conservation measures that improve current overharvesting practices and environmental degradation to help restore symbiosis in Native habitats. All of us, Native Americans and allies alike – need to respect the regeneration of medicine.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
has listed Peyote as a "vulnerable" species, but this does not make the species a priority for protection and conservation.
Unsustainable harvesting practices threaten the cultural, spiritual, and medicinal traditions of the Native American people, for whom Peyote is an integral part of their culture and life.
Unsustainable practices have caused Native American people to lose their direct connection to their sacred Peyote medicine and their ability to caretake its future. All of this is leading members to look at peyote cultivation as a solution to the problem.
Core strategy for addressing the Peyote crisis is to create land access for:
- Spiritual and ecological harvest
- Promoting regrowth of the cactus
- Regenerating plant populations through replanting
- Creating a conservation and access system that includes population assessments, rancher incentives, and new policies that are fundamentally tied to Indigenous sovereignty.
To further support Native American and Tribal sovereignty for the future, the Indigenous Peyote Conservation Initiative takes an inter-tribal approach that incorporates traditional knowledge, science, and community needs.
SOME OF THE OTHER PEYOTE CONSERVATION PROJECTS THE IMC FUND SUPPORTS ARE:
- Numu Husi Kahne
- Chapter Greenhouse Initiative
- Yaqui Conservation Efforts
What we can do
to make this happen?
Peyote is vital to the identity, spirituality, and legacy of Indigenous cultures of the Americas. Ultimately, if Peyote disappears, the culture disappears too.
We must care about the future of the sustainability of Peyote.
Peyote requires careful consideration because of its ecological and anthropological status. At this time, especially in the US and Mexico, we need to find and create opportunities to support and ally with Native Americans to address the Peyote crisis.
We can ally with Native Americans and this sacred medicine by refraining from utilizing it and choosing other sources that are more abundant and culturally appropriate.
If you feel called to try, refrain from using peyote. mescaline, there are other sources and plant medicine alternatives to choose from.
Grow medicine and IMC Fund believe in expanding knowledge, awareness, and consumer education about essential conservation-related sacred medicines, so we as a larger community can be in right relationship with Indigenous communities and their natural biocultures.
We need to learn how we can support these core indigenous wisdom keepers and their traditional knowledge.
If we look at what is currently happening with plant medicines and don’t consider what happened in the past, we miss opportunities for healing. We are grateful to support the Native people of this land in their prayer for a sustainable and healthy way of life.
We believe that respecting Native American rights and leadership in setting conservation strategy, whether through policy, community-based actions or on the ground responsibility for conservation, is unequivocally the best practice for the plant medicine community.
At this time in history, it is a beautiful dream of Unity that all of us can get behind Native Americans’ future health.
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Our responsibility to preserve and conserve our peyote medicine for our future generation requires us to advocate for and protect it’s sacredness.
~ Lucy & Steven Benally