2022 seems to be the year when peyote people all arrived on the same page- The land and the medicine must be protected! This is not to say the discussion has not been ongoing within the membership and leadership of the Native American Church. It has. But the conversation has suddenly (over the past 3 decades) sprouted deeper roots in our unified discussions. And this week, NAC of North America leaders from the U.S. and Canada, met in the nation’s capital to discuss policy intended to help protect the medicine.
Here are some excerpts from a press report regarding these discussions. (Link to full article below.)
Native American Church of North America Advocates at Capitol Hill for Protections of Peyote
“We secured the use of peyote with the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, but we never advocated for the protection of its habitat,” Ryan Wilson, chairman of NACNA’s Legislative Committee, said during Wednesday’s meeting.
In Wednesday’s meeting at the Indian Gaming Association’s conference center, NACNA delegates from the United States and Canada met with the National Congress of American Indians’ newly appointed executive director, Larry Wright, Jr., and attorney Gregory Smith to discuss a strategy to protect American Indian religious freedom.
To address the diminishing peyote habitat, NACNA officials said they plan to request $5 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Conservation Reserve Program or the U.S. Department of Interior’s Office of the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs for a stand-alone program.
If awarded, the program will compensate land owners for converting their lands into a protected peyote habitat and would fund activities that focus on the conservation and managed harvest of peyote. The program would establish an advisory committee with federally recognized tribes, tribal leaders, state and federal officials, and private landowners to preserve and maximize long-term peyote habitat protections. –Native News Online
It’s promising to hear that these talks are taking place in Washington DC. Let’s pray this moment builds into something that does not descend into something resembling government waste or well intentioned mismanagement. The likely reality is that politics won’t fix our peyote problem any quicker than peyote will fix our politics problem. But we can advocate for the former and at least pray for the latter.
The recommendation to establish an advisory committee is important. Advisory Commit Tea. A good idea whose time has come in 2022. Thank you Creator.
Who knows how to advise for medicine? I can only put forth ideas and advocate. So here’s a little of that.
There are almost always ramifications, and often unintended consequences, to any government program whether it be administered by the Departments of Agriculture or Interior. Or both.
I’m a little hesitant to mention it again, but I’m naturally reminded of Mao’s tragic loss of rice crops due to a centralized government program designed to save rice. Or the well known Hawaiian bio-escapade of snakes being imported to eradicate accidentally introduced rats, which led to a snake population explosion, and so mongoose (mongeese?) were brought in to handle the snakes. I’m imagining the next inevitable image of some kind of horrible island mongoose outbreak but I don’t remember how the story goes, and I’m writing this on a plane, so no Lorax fact check. Mongoose Outbreak is not a half bad band name in my opinion.
But back to government program exactitude, or not. I’m trying to imagine the potential effects of 5 million tax dollars available to help medicine in South Texas.
Some ideas would be to create a compensation fund for licensed dealers to:
A- Harvest/sell less medicine, while being compensated for lost sales revenue.
B- Only pay pickers for medicine over a certain size of diameter. Compensation fund could compensate pickers and dealers for loss of numbers available for harvest and sale. The effect of this scenario would naturally lead to fewer numbers, but larger plants, available for purchase. I imagine that in spite of the increase in mass of a sack of 1000, it would still amount to less total medicine available annually, at least for a number of years.
C- Create an educational program for the pickers employed by licensed dealers increasing awareness of the ecological consequences of over-picking peyote may be helpful to some extent but is unlikely to result in any significant decrease in harvesting pressure unless accompanied by financial incentives.
Or, the program might directly:
D- Purchase dedicated conservatory property. Two problems with this: 5 million won’t buy a large enough parcel to make a significant dent in the problem, and a permanent land base would require a certain amount of security.
E- Grant operating funds to existing conservatory organizations.
Some of the above options might have a negative effect on the amount of peyote accessible to dealers. This might be considered a positive side effect for conservation.
But dissecting the value of potential government funding for peyote conservation is not the aim of this post. Let’s just agree that this is an important moment in time when history will show that the preservation of peyote became a widespread national conversation. Congratulations to everyone involved in carrying these prayers to Washington DC.
Dear Creator. Let your medicine’s voice speak from the land through your people. Let their words be heard by all who need to listen.
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